USERRA Protects Military Personnel

Here are HR legal and compliance issues you need to know:
Company pays over $350,000 to former employee because its 
termination of the employee violated the legislation that 
protects military personnel.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act 
of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law that protects employees 
from discrimination as a result of their military service.
Norfolk Southern Railway Co. (NSRC) violated USERRA when 
it discharged one of its conductors who satisfied his 
obligations to the Tennessee Army National Guard.
Kelly Hance was a conductor for NSRC and a member of the 
Tennessee Army National Guard. Hance requested and was 
granted a transfer to a new division of NSRC.
Hance reported to Rick Webster, his new supervisor, and 
brought with him a representative from the National Guard, 
who told Webster that Hance would be leaving for a 2-week 
summer military training later that month.
Webster became hostile and angry toward Hance and the 
military representative. Webster refused to accept 
paperwork related to Hance’s military training, and 
ordered Hance to travel on the dates of his military 
training. Hance refused the assignment as he was 
scheduled for summer camp during that period and NSRC 
dismissed Hance for insubordination.
Hance sued NSRC alleging that it discharged him in 
violation of USERRA. At issue was whether Hance 
established that his military service was a motivating 
factor in NSRC’s decision.
After hearing the evidence, the court entered a verdict 
for Hance and ordered NSRC to reinstate Hance to his prior 
position and awarding him back pay, lost benefits, and 
interest in the amount of $352,845.
At the trial, one of the tactics that NSRC attempted was 
to argue that Webster did not have authority to terminate 
Hance. Therefore, Webster’s anti-military animus could 
not be imputed to NSRC. The court rejected this notion 
based on the past practice of NSRC in which supervisors 
were given authority to terminate employees.
The court concluded from the evidence that discriminatory 
motivation could be “reasonably inferred from a variety of 
factors,” including:
#1 The proximity in time between Hance’s military activity 
and his discharge,
#2 The express hostility shown toward Hance by Webster, 
#3 Hance’s status as a uniformed service member.
Management Lesson
Here are the takeaways from this material.
This case reaffirms a few issues:
1. Supervisory personnel are agents of the company and can 
legally bind the company by what they say and do.
2. Supervisors need regular refresher courses and 
reminders to ensure that they don’t “cross the line” with 
discriminatory comments.
3. Supervisors need to involve Human Resources before 
taking any disciplinary action with an employee.
Dedicated To Enhancing Your HR Assets!

Kiesha Valentine, PHR, SHRM-CP, CMHR
Human Resources
Cell: 714-982-1789
Mailing Address:
5753 E. Santa Ana Canyon Rd., Suite #G242
Anaheim Hills, CA 92807


Categories: HR NEWS

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