Service members’ jobs protected—If actually employed

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources

In times of armed conflict, employers have historically borne some burden—especially when it comes to employees called to active military duty. These days, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects members of the armed forces by allowing them to return to their jobs when their service ends.

But USERRA has limits, applying only to service members who actually were employees when they went to serve.

Recent case: In May 2001, Edward Quick applied for a position as pilot with Frontier Airlines of Denver and was placed in a future hiring pool. Four months later, Quick volunteered for active military duty, reporting for duty in February 2002. In March 2002, the airline hired a class of new pilots, but Quick was not among them.

Frontier kept Quick in its pilot pool during his military service. On his return in 2004, the airline offered him a job, which Quick accepted. Fifteen months later, Quick asked that Frontier advance his seniority to the level it would have been in March 2002, arguing that he would have been hired in that class had it not been for his military service. The airline granted his request, advancing his seniority and granting back pay.

Some other pilots objected to Quick’s benefits. The group eventually filed suit, alleging breach of contract.

Quick later sued as well, alleging that he was essentially “hired” in March 2002 and did not receive his due reemployment benefits under USERRA. He also claimed he was singled out for punishment because he had served.

The court ruled for Frontier, finding that Quick was not an employee at the time of his deployment, but merely a member of a hiring pool. It also tossed out his retaliation claim since he wasn’t entitled to USERRA benefits. (Quick v. Frontier Airlines, No. 06-CV-01054, DC CO, 2008)

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