By Debbie Gregory.
Apparently the skies are not so friendly when it comes to Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit accusing United Airlines Inc for violating a pilot’s employment rights by failing to provide sick leave when he was called to active duty by the U.S. Air Force, where he was a reservist.
USERRA is part of the U.S. government’s effort to ensure that military personnel are not penalized for serving their country, including legal actions to stop improper home foreclosures and car repossessions.
The complaint alleges that United failed to credit Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Fandrei with sick leave while he was deployed as a KC-10 pilot in southwest Asia from December 2012 to March 2013.
United offered the benefits to other employees on similar leave, violating USERRA.
“Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois. “When our servicemembers are deployed in the service of our country, they are entitled to retain their civilian employment and benefits, and to the protections of federal law that prevent them from being subject to discrimination based upon their military obligations.”
United believes its policies comply with USERRA, iterating that the company is “committed to supporting the many aviation professionals at our airline who served or who are currently serving in the military.”
The Justice Department said Fandrei, of Fairfield, California, worked at the time of his deployment for Continental Airlines, whose contract with its pilots did not let them accrue sick leave during military deployments.
United and Continental had merged in 2010.
According to the complaint, Fandrei was commissioned as an Air Force officer in 1990, and retired from the Air Force Reserve as of Jan. 1, 2016.
He joined United as a pilot in 2000, and was recalled from a furlough six months before being deployed, the complaint said.