Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against United Airlines for Violating Employment Rights of U.S. Air Force Reservist
The Justice Department filed a complaint today alleging that United Airlines Inc. violated the employment rights of U.S. Air Force Reservist Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Fandrei under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
According to the complaint, United violated USERRA by denying Fandrei employment benefits during his military leave that it grants to other employees for similar types of leave. Specifically, the complaint alleges that United failed to credit Fandrei with sick leave for his active duty deployment in 2012 and 2013. During that time, Fandrei was mobilized as a KC-10 pilot in Southwest Asia. Fandrei served his country as part of the Air Force from 1990 until 2016.
“Individuals who serve bravely in our armed forces should be treated fairly by their employers while they are actively deployed,” said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer. “Through the department’s newly-created Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, we will continue to build on our strong ties with federal partners and continue using every tool at our disposal to protect the rights of the men and women who serve in our armed forces.”
“USERRA ensures that servicemembers like Lt. Col. Fandrei who answer our nation’s call to duty don’t return to civilian life and find their employment benefits denied and their civil rights violated,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce the law to safeguard the rights of those who defend our country and protect our freedom.”
“Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois. “When our servicemembers are deployed in the service of our country, they are entitled to retain their civilian employment and benefits, and to the protections of federal law that prevent them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations.”
The lawsuit filed by the United States seeks damages equal to the amount of Fandrei’s lost benefits caused by United’s failure to comply with USERRA. It also seeks an order requiring United to comply with all provisions of USERRA.
USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment prior to, during and following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations. Under USERRA, the department has authority to represent a servicemember if the department is satisfied that the servicemember is entitled to the rights or benefits being sought.
Fandrei initially filed a complaint with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which investigated this matter and, after resolution failed, referred it to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. This lawsuit followed as a collaborative initiative between the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois. The Justice Department has prioritized the enforcement of servicemembers’ rights under USERRA. Additional information about USERRA can be found on the department’s websites at www.usdoj.gov/crt/emp and www.servicemembers.gov, as well as on the Labor Department’s website at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.