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Military-leave suit targets law firm

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The U.S. Department of Justice says an Indianapolis law firm wrongfully refused to re-employ a staff attorney who'd returned from serving in Iraq as a member of the Indiana Army National Guard.

Filing a four-page suit Monday in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, the DOJ is suing on behalf of Mt. Vernon resident and National Guardsman Matthew B. Jeffries who now works as a bankruptcy attorney in Evansville. The suit accuses Indianapolis law firm Mike Norris & Associates of violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which requires those who leave their jobs to serve in the U.S. military be timely re-employed by their civilian employers in the same or comparable position that they would have held if they hadn't left to serve their country.

Jeffries was called to active duty in February 2003 and deployed at the beginning of the Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. Returning in April 2004 with an honorable discharge, he contacted Mike Norris & Associates about returning to his job and the firm refused to re-employ him, the suit alleges. Jeffries filed a complaint with the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), which investigated, determined the claim had merit, and referred the matter to the justice department.

Jeffries couldn't be reached at his Evansville office Tuesday morning, and Norris declined to comment on the allegations. His counsel, Indianapolis attorney Dan Emerson at Bose McKinney & Evans, said he wasn't aware that his client had been served the complaint yet and that it would premature to comment before that happens.

More than three dozen of these USERRA cases have been filed nationally since the start of the Iraqi war in 2003, including six this year, according to the DOJ employment litigation section Web site. One filed Feb. 27, 2009, in Dayton, Ohio, involved Indiana National Guardsman Kevin Stenger, who was put in a lower position after returning from a two-week annual military training to his job at industrial electrical contractor Wagner Industrial Electric. Instead of getting his previous position of foreman, Stenger was given the spot of journeyman and received a lower salary, fewer responsibilities, and less overtime opportunity. That suit remains pending.

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  1. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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