In White vs. United Airline, et al., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, recently ruled that employers may have to provide short-term paid military leave. The case involves a group of pilots who sued their employer, United Airlines, for violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) after United failed to provide paid leave and profit-sharing-plan credits while the pilots were on military leave. The Court held that USERRA’s requirement that employees on military leave receive the same “rights and benefits” as those on comparable, nonmilitary leaves. Essentially this means an employer who provides compensation for comparable, non-military leaves of absence must also do so for leave taken under the USERRA.
Although the Court ruled the pilots are entitled to some compensation for short-term military leave, they did not address whether the pilots were entitled to their full regular wages instead of the difference between that amount and what the military pays. The Court also deferred the comparison of leaves to the Department of Labor’s guidance on this issue, which considers the following three main factors:
- the duration of the leave;
- the purpose of the leave; and
- the ability of the employee to choose when to take the leave.
Currently, the Seventh Circuit’s ruling is the highest court to address this issue, although similar litigation is pending across the nation. And because it is a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, the decision carries some weight within the other Federal District courts. Therefore, all employers may want to review their Military Leave policies to ensure they are comparable to other paid leaves offered.
A full copy of the US Court of Appeals ruling in White vs. United Airlines may be found here.
*The information provided in this communication is general in nature and is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal, tax, or accounting advice.