Department of Justice Seal Department of Justice
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

Justice Department Files Class Action Lawsuit Against American
Airlines to Defend Employment Rights of Military Pilots

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Justice today announced the filing of a lawsuit against American Airlines, Inc., alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). This lawsuit represents the first class action complaint filed by the United States under USERRA.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, Texas, alleges that American Airlines violated USERRA by denying pilots Mark Woodall, Michael McMahon and Paul Madson employment benefits during their military service. Woodall and McMahon serve as pilots in the Naval Reserve and hold the ranks of Captain and Commander, respectively. Madson serves as a pilot in the South Dakota Air National Guard and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

“This nation depends on our reservists to faithfully carry out their duty. No reservists – indeed, no members of our armed forces – should ever be punished or discriminated against for answering the call of duty,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The filing of this lawsuit reflects the Civil Rights Division’s continuing commitment to fully protect our uniformed service member’s employment rights.”

The complaint alleges that American Airlines conducted an audit of the leave taken for military service by American Airline pilots in 2001. The complaint further alleges that based on the results of that audit, American Airlines reduced the employment benefits of those of its pilots who had taken military leave, while not reducing the same benefits of those of its pilots who had taken similar types of non-military leave.

“This action shows the Labor Department and the Justice Department are working together effectively to protect the jobs and benefits of National Guard and Reserve service members upon their return to civilian life, as required under USERRA,” said Charles S. Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit was filed after the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) of the Department of Labor referred Captain Woodall’s, Commander McMahon’s and Lt. Colonel Madson’s complaints to the Justice Department upon completion of its investigation and failed settlement efforts.

More information about USERRA is available at