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Lowe’s settles case over firing of Iraq War vet

BY Brae Canlen

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has agreed to settle a Justice Department claim that it terminated an employee without just cause after he returned from serving in the Iraq War. The consent decree, which still requires approval by a U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., requires that Lowe’s pay the employee, Matthew King, $45,000 for back pay and liquidated damages.

Lowe’s did not respond to a request for comments.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Lowe’s violated the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal statute requiring employers to rehire anyone returning from military service in a position he or she would have attained had they not been called away. Employers are obligated to guarantee that employment for one year unless there is good cause to terminate the employee.

Lowe’s hired King in April 2008, according to the DOJ, and in September 2008, King provided Lowe’s a copy of his military orders deploying him to Iraq. He spent approximately a year in Iraq and returned to Oregon in May 2010 after being honorably discharged. Upon his return, King initially sought unemployment benefits on the basis of his federal military discharge, but never actually received any unemployment benefits. He sought reemployment with Lowe’s and was rehired there.

Within a couple of months, however, Lowe’s human resource department received notice of King’s initial application for unemployment benefits and summoned him to a meeting. Although King tried to explain to the human resources personnel that he had applied for unemployment before being reemployed by Lowe’s and because he had been discharged by the military, “Lowe’s fired King on the spot and made no further attempt to investigate the matter, even though King attempted to provide clarifying information from Oregon’s unemployment office to Lowe’s,” the DOJ claims.

The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) investigated and determined that Lowe’s had wrongfully terminated King without cause. The Department of Labor referred the matter to the Justice Department, Civil Rights Division, which coordinated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland to represent King in his USERRA claims against Lowe’s.

“Our service members need to know we will have their backs at home, including the right to have their job restored with their former employer when they return home after serving our country,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the law to ensure that an individual who has sacrificed so much to serve this country has a fair opportunity to be reemployed as the law provides.”

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BrassCraft redesigns its “Made in USA” logo

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Novi, Mich.-based BrassCraft Manufacturing put a new stamp on its made-in-the-USA operations by unveiling a new logo with a patriotic theme.

The new logo has the American flag in the center of the words "designed, machined and assembled in the USA."

The company’s water connectors, water stops, gas connectors and appliance connectors are designed in the United States and machined at plants in Lancaster, Texas; Corona, Calif.; and Thomasville, N.C.

"The redesigned logo sets these BrassCraft products apart from our competitors," said Jeff Jollay, VP marketing and product development. "It is a powerful message that resonates very strongly with our customer, the professional plumber."

The company said it is ensuring that the products that carry the new flag logo meet all of the applicable Federal Trade Commission rules that prohibit deceptive advertising. 

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Bill Bollin of Bostwick-Braun receives lifetime honor

BY Brae Canlen

Bill Bollin, chairman and CEO of The Bostwick-Braun Co., was honored with a Lifetime of Achievement award on Nov. 3 by the PRO Group at its annual Executive Planning Conference in Naples, Fla.

Bollin joined the Toledo, Ohio-based Bostwick-Braun Co. in 1970, working in the warehouse and later moving on to shipping, office support, data processing, purchasing, management and all the way to his current position as chairman.

He oversaw many significant changes for the distributor, including transitioning from private ownership to an employee stock ownership plan, progressing from data processing punch cards to the launch of a turnkey point-of-sales system, and moving Toledo’s outdated distribution center to a new 300,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Ashley, Ind. 

Under Bollin’s leadership, the company grew its hardware presence from eight states in the Midwest to 18 states across the country. Bostwick-Braun acquired Steel City Products in 2006, expanding the company’s reach into automotive products, pet products and lawn and garden. Four years later, the company purchased Southern Hardware in West Helena, Ark., expanding its hardware reach. That same year, 2010, the company acquired JMC Sales and Engineering, expanding the wholesaler’s manufacturing offerings.

Steve Synnott, president and CEO of PRO Group, presented the award to Bollin, noting how Lifetime of Achievements awards are often associated with retirement. But in this case, PRO Group wanted to recognize Bollin — who has no immediate plans to retire — for his continuing impact while he is still at the helm of Bostwick-Braun. 

Synnott credited Bollin with shaping the company, setting the tone for a can-do and thrifty culture “[that] demands careful analysis and thoughtful implementation.”

“The result is a company that has made money every single month since January of 1987,” Synnott said. “Think about the enormity of that accomplishment. That’s 286 consecutive months of profit generation. Coincidentally, Bill Bollin was promoted to executive VP over all operations in late-1986.”

Synnott added that a $1,000 stake in Bostwick-Braun in 1986 is now valued at more than $110,000.

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