Feds: Mass. firefighter promotion dispute settled
BOSTON—A Massachusetts firefighter who claimed city officials bypassed him for promotion because he missed work for military duty will be getting a bump in rank.
A federal judge still must approve the court settlement that retroactively promotes Pittsfield firefighter Jeffrey Rawson to lieutenant.
He'll also get about $22,000 in back pay and other earnings.
Pittsfield officials will undergo training in a law that says civilian employers can't discriminate against military members in employment matters because of their uniformed service obligations.
Pittsfield's mayor had no comment on the case Monday.
Court records show the city denies violating federal law and also doesn't admit Rawson's allegations as part of the settlement.
The firefighter first filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department, before the case went to Justice Department officials. Government lawyers represented Rawson after he filed the federal lawsuit.
He became a Pittsfield firefighter in 1990. Starting in 2001, he was in the Massachusetts Army National Guard for about a year before starting his service as a Navy reservist.
Rawson's lawsuit said he went on active military duty for about a year starting in 2007, and for about half of 2009.
He took the lieutenant's test in late 2009, earning the second highest score. But city officials promoted the firefighter with the third highest score ahead of him.
The acting fire chief reportedly told Rawson he was never at work and had to decide if he worked for the Navy or the Pittsfield Fire Department.
The firefighter said in his lawsuit that a letter from the city cited his time away for military service as justification for bypassing him for the lieutenant's job.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a Monday statement that while military members' temporary absences create challenges for employers, service members "endure much greater challenges to protect our precious freedom."