On February 4, 2021, the 7th Circuit reversed a district court's order dismissing a USERRA lawsuit. White v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 19-2546 (7th Cir. Feb. 4, 2021). In 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employee and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"), with the goal of prohibiting civilian employers from discriminating against employees because of their military service. 38 U.S.C. § 4301(a). The question in this case was whether USERRA’s mandate that military leave be given the same “rights and benefits” as comparable, nonmilitary leave requires an employer to provide paid military leave to the same extent that it provides paid leave for other absences. The 7th Circuit held that paid leave falls within the set of “rights and benefits” defined by USERRA and, therefore, employers are required to provide paid military leave under USERRA to the same extent that employers provide paid leave for non-military absences such as paid sick leave and the like. This was a question of first impression for the 7th Circuit.
Accordingly, employers should familiarize themselves with this decision and update their employee handbooks with respect to their leave of absence policies.