The scenario: For more than 20 years, a man served in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Naval Reserve, reaching the rank of petty officer first class.
While serving in the Naval Reserve, he also worked for a private company.
Every year, the employee took two weeks off from his position with the private company in order to serve in the Naval Reserve. He also left for reserve duty as needed several times each year.
Even though the employer paid full wages to workers who took sick or bereavement leave or who served on juries, crew members taking time off for military duty weren’t compensated.
Legal challenge: The worker sued his employer under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA), contending that he should’ve been paid his full wages during the time he spent on military duty.
The employer argued that USERRA doesn’t require employees to be compensated for work not done.
The ruling: The company lost. The court said the staffer should be paid for the time he spent in the military.
The judge decided that USERRA requires employers to provide the same benefits to military service members as they do to those not in the military.
As a result, the employer had to compensate the crew member for his military service because it paid other workers when they took time off for their health or for other personal reasons such as sick time.
The skinny: If you pay workers when they use sick time, when they serve on juries, or when a family member dies, you now have to also pay their full wages when they take time off for military service.
Cite: Travers v. Federal Express, U.S. Court of Appeals 3, No. 20-2703, 8/10/21.
(From the Aug. 27, 2021, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)