Posts

Supreme Court Asked to Take Up Workplace Rights for Reservists

supreme court

By Debbie Gregory.

Lawmakers are asking the Supreme Court to decide whether military reservists’ unfair dismissal claims can be forced into arbitration by their civilian bosses.

Because the case involves veterans’ rights, the legislators are hopeful that the Supreme Court will show appreciation for our citizen soldiers by allowing them to legally stand up for their workplace rights.

The filing’s intention is to overturn a previous appeals court ruling against Kevin Ziober, a Navy reservist who sued his employer for firing him before his year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

In mid-May, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal spearheaded the filing of a amici curiae brief , also known as a “friend-of-the-court” brief on behalf of  himself, six fellow senators and 13 House members.

The members of Congress urged the Supreme Court to reaffirm a longstanding principle that all veterans’ rights laws must be interpreted for the benefit of veterans. It is also imperative to protect veterans and servicemembers against waiving any of their rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), including their procedural enforcement rights like the right to file an action in federal court.

“They’re serving and sacrificing so we have these rights, and then they come home and they are denied those very rights that they are fighting to uphold.”

The aforementioned case alleges that in 2012, real estate company BLB Resources told Ziober he was out of a job. The company denied wrongdoing, saying it terminated Ziober for sub-par performance on a federal contract assignment, and not for his deployment.

Upon returning to the U.S., Ziober brought a lawsuit against BLB under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) a 1994 law banning companies from discriminating against employees for taking time away from work to serve in the reserves.

If the Supreme Court accepts the lawmakers’ request, it could finally end what has become a pain point for employment in several industries.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Court Rules Against Navy Reservist in USERRA Case

kevin userra
By Debbie Gregory.

A high-level federal court delivered a blow to the rights of military reservists.

Kevin Ziober was a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve in 2012 when he received deployment orders to Afghanistan. After co-workers gathered to give Ziober a proper sendoff, he was summoned to the human resources office.

And then he was fired.

Ziober believed the dismissal was the direct result of the inconvenience his military service caused his employer. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) exists to protect military reservists against such discrimination.

Ziober lost his case before the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, one step below the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that his pre-employment arbitration agreement prohibited him from suing his former employer.

Six months into Ziober’s tenure at real estate management firm BLB Resources, he stated that the company asked him and other employees to sign an arbitration agreement in order to remain employed. The agreement was presented to them on a take it or leave it basis. Ziober, like other employees who needed their jobs to support themselves and their families, felt that he had to sign it.

BLB Resources disputed Ziober’s version of the events, saying that his firing became necessary when the federal contract to which he was assigned was not renewed.

Protecting service members from employment discrimination is directly linked to military readiness and the Defense Department’s ability to recruit and retain more than 800,000 part-time troops every year.

Although the court ruled against Ziober, the judge appeared to urge Congress to consider changing or strengthening USERRA.

In 1994, when Congress enacted USERRA, it stated explicitly that veterans and service members cannot waive any of their rights under USERRA, that they have a right to enforce their rights in federal court, and that they cannot be required to arbitrate their USERRA claims.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, and their families.

USERRA Law to be Tested in Court

kevin userraBy Debbie Gregory.

Kevin Ziober was a lieutenant in the Navy Reserve in 2012 when he received deployment orders to Afghanistan. After co-workers gathered to give Ziober a proper sendoff, he was summoned to the human resources office.

And then he was fired.

Ziober believes the dismissal was the direct result of the inconvenience his military service caused his employer. If so, that would be a violation of federal law.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) exists to protect military reservists against such discrimination.

In 1994, when Congress enacted USERRA, it stated explicitly that veterans and service members cannot waive any of their rights under USERRA, that they have a right to enforce their rights in federal court, and that they cannot be required to arbitrate their USERRA claims.

Ziober’s case will be heard this month by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest federal court in California.

Six months into Ziober’s tenure at real estate management firm BLB Resources, he stated that the company asked him and other employees to sign an arbitration agreement in order to remain employed. The agreement was presented to them on a take it or leave it basis. Ziober, like other employees who needed their jobs to support themselves and their families, felt that he had to sign it.

BLB Resources disputes Ziober’s version of the events, saying that his firing became necessary when the federal contract to which he was assigned was not renewed.

Protecting service members from employment discrimination is directly linked to military readiness and the Defense Department’s ability to recruit and retain more than 800,000 part-time troops every year.

“After fighting for our freedom overseas, no service member or veteran should have to fight for their job when they come home,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “And they certainly shouldn’t be denied their right to their day in court if their federal rights are violated.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.