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A tale of two employers, two female soldiers

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Honoring members of the military is about more than thanking them for their service. Consider, for example, how two companies recently treated citizen soldiers in their employ—one well, the other allegedly not so well.

Shell Oil Co. scored tons of great publicity earlier this month when one of its engineers, 37-year-old Army Reserve Major Lisa Jaster, became the third woman in history to graduate from the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger School.

Earlier this year, Shell approved a six-month leave for Jaster to attempt the feat. A veteran previously deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, Jaster manages brownfields for Shell when she isn’t serving in the Reserve.

Hans Hofland, her manager at Shell, said, “We are very proud of Lisa and her ability to achieve such an extremely demanding goal. Her ability to do well under pressure is exemplified in this achievement and it comes as no surprise to us that she was successful.”

Contrast that with the apparent attitude at Volvo, currently embroiled in litigation with another female citizen soldier. Luzmaria Arroya, a veteran and Army Reservist, has sued her former employer for violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and just won the right to a trial.

Arroya alleges that her bosses repeatedly criticized her military service. While employed at Volvo, Arroya deployed twice to Iraq and Kuwait: from April 2006 to May 2007 and from April 2009 to August 2010. She took regular leave for weekend drills and training.

Internal Volvo documents repeatedly criticized her absences, complaining about scheduling and trying to pressure her into transferring to a closer military unit to cut back on her travel time for training. When Volvo eventually fired her for alleged absenteeism, Arroya sued.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just authorized her lawsuit. A jury will decide whether she was fired in violation of USERRA for taking too much military leave. (Arroyo v. Volvo, No. 14-3618, 7th Cir., 2015)

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