MARIETTA, Ga. - A Marietta Army veteran says she was forced to go to court to get her job back when she returned from serving her country.
Jessica Rice was a mail carrier with the United States Postal Service before she joined the military.
Rice was in the Army for four and a half years, serving two tours in Afghanistan. When she came home to Georgia in 2012, she tried to get her job back, but was told there were no open positions available.
“He told me there were no open positions available and that my best opportunity was to accept a position in Kentucky and transfer down,” Rice said.
She told Channel 2’s Liz Artz she had to start over as a new employee. As a veteran her employment status is protected by law.
“They should have reinstated her -- given all of her seniority she accrued before military and the time she was in the military,” her attorney Chuck Bachman said.
He says Uniform Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, or USERRA, protects people like Rice. The federal law states military veterans have the right to come home and pick up not only where they left off, but where they would have been had they never left to serve their country.
He says vets shouldn't have to fight so hard for something that is so clearly spelled out with the law.
“They should be finding reasons to help veterans, not reasons to deny them their benefits,” he said.
Rice said she worked for two years as a sub while fighting for her rights.
“Being able to take annual leave and sick leave, gaining retirement benefits -- as a sub you don't get any of that. If you need a day off, you don't get paid for it,” Rice said.
Rice fought on her own for two years.
“I went through HR, the Union Office of special council,” she said
She finally hired Bachman, who sued and successfully got her career status with set hours and a set route reinstated. He’s still fighting for pay.
“What she'll never get back is time away from kids and stress on her,” Bachman said.
The postal service sent a statement Friday stating:
“The Postal Service holds in high regard all employees who have served our country in uniform. Furthermore, the Postal Service follows and complies with any and all laws that govern employment matters, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
"While the Postal Service respects the decision that was issued by the Merit Systems Protection Board in this matter, it does not agree with merits of the decision. Notwithstanding, the Postal Service has fully complied with the decision at this point in time.”
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