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A federal appeals court overturned a lower court Tuesday and ruled a Federal Express Corp. worker is entitled to be paid for his military reserve leave.
Gerard Travers, who served in the U.S. Navy and the Naval Reserve, works for FedEx and fulfilled his reserve duties during leaves from work, according to the ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia in Gerard Travers v. Federal Express Corp.
Mr. Travers did not receive compensation from FedEx for those absences because the company does not pay employees for military leave, but it does pay workers who miss work for other reasons, such as jury duty, illness and bereavement, according to the ruling.
Mr. Travers filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, challenging this policy. The district court ruled in FedEx’s favor.
After a close analysis of USERRA’s language, a three-judge appeals panel concluded that Mr. Travers had stated a claim under what it called “a statute with a long history of protecting the jobs and accompanying benefits of Americas called to our common defense.”
“Best understood, USERRA does not allow employers to treat service members differently by paying employees for some kinds of leave while exempting military service,” the ruling said in remanding the case to the lower court.
In February, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed a lower court decision in Eric White v. United Airlines Inc. and refused to dismiss a case filed by a pilot who is a reservist and sued the airline for paid military leave.
Jonathan E. Taylor, a principal with Gupta Wessler PLLC in Washington, who represented Mr. Travers in the 3rd Circuit case, said in a statement, "This is a big win for those who serve our country with honor and ask only that they be treated equally by their employers.
“The Third Circuit today joined the Seventh Circuit in explaining that federal law requires full equality between servicemembers and other employees when they take leave. Six appellate judges have now considered the employers’ arguments on this issue, and all six have forcefully rejected them.
FedEx attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.
In July, a federal appeals court reversed a lower court decision and ruled in favor of a railroad in litigation filed by a former employee who had charged it with violating USERRA when he returned to work from a deployment.