Warren County school board, DOJ settle lawsuit
Warren County’s school board has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice involving an assistant principal.
Dwayne Coffer will be re-employed with a two-year contract as a lead teacher/site supervisor, according to a statement from the DOJ released Monday. Coffer, a Sgt. First Class with the N.C. Army Reserve, had worked at Warren County High School as an assistant principal until his contract was not renewed in 2008.
According to the DOJ’s complaint, he did not get a renewal because school staff members expressed frustration at accommodating his military service during the school year. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina on Coffer’s behalf under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
Efforts to reach Ray Spain, superintendent of Warren County Schools, on Monday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Among other things, the school board will rehire Coffer at the rate of pay he would be receiving if he had continued to be employed as an assistant principal, pay lost wages in the amount of $10,000, and contribute lost retirement payments to his retirement account in the amount of $13,702.63.
Coffer served Kuwait and Afghanistan from February 2004 to February 2005.
USERRA provides protection for employees so that employers may not discriminate against service members with respect to employment opportunities based on their past, current or future uniformed service obligations. Employers also have to promptly re-employ service members following their return from military leave.
“It is important that veterans have the opportunity to serve their country free from worry about termination without cause,” said Jocelyn Samuels in a prepared statement. Samuels is the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
“Improper job terminations over military service cannot be tolerated,” said Thomas G. Walker in a prepared statement. Walker is a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
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