OKLAHOMA CITY (June 1, 2009)—The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Goodyear in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, claiming the tire maker violated an ex-soldier's rights by failing to re-employ him promptly at its Lawton, Okla., plant after he returned from military service in the Middle East.
Michael J. Ellis, who had a pre-existing back injury from his service in the first Persian Gulf War, returned from a two-year stint in the Army Reserve in October 2007.
A Goodyear physical therapist found that Ellis was physically incapable of returning to his old job as a roll changer at Lawton, and the company put Ellis on the “Automatic Bidders List” for a job that matched his physical qualifications, according to the suit.
It took Goodyear nearly a year to find a new position for Ellis, who shortly thereafter left the company to take a better-paying job, the DOJ's brief said.
Ellis filed a complaint against Goodyear in late October 2007 under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.
In its brief before the Western Oklahoma district court, the Justice Department alleges that Goodyear's delay violated USERRA's promise of prompt re-employment for veterans. It seeks a court order for Goodyear to reimburse Ellis for loss of earnings and other benefits, including pre-judgment interest.
In a statement, Goodyear said it worked diligently to find Ellis another job at the Lawton plant, but he declined to provide information Goodyear needed for that purpose.
“Goodyear has a long history of supporting the U.S. military and takes its responsibilities under USERRA very seriously, ” the tire maker said. “We have thousands of veterans, both active and inactive, on our payrolls today.”