Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against United Airlines for Violating Employment Rights of U.S. Air Force Reservist

The complaint alleges that the company violated the employment rights of the reservist under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against United Airlines for Violating Employment Rights of U.S. Air Force Reservist
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August 16, 2016

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a complaint against United Airlines Inc. alleging that the company violated the employment rights of U.S. Air Force Reservist Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Fandrei guaranteed under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

The complaint alleges that United violated the law by denying Lt. Col. Fandrei employment benefits while he was on military leave that are granted to other employees for similar types of leave. The benefit at issue is sick leave for his deployment on active duty in 2012 and 2013, during which time he served as a KC-10 pilot in Southwest Asia.

Lt. Col. Fandrei was a member of the Air Force from 1990 until 2016.

"Individuals who serve bravely in our armed forces should be treated fairly by their employers while they are actively deployed," said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer. "Through the department's newly-created Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative, we will continue to build on our strong ties with federal partners and continue using every tool at our disposal to protect the rights of the men and women who serve in our armed forces."

"Lt. Col. Fandrei has made many sacrifices to serve our nation honorably, including spending months away from his job and family," commented 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."

The suit is seeking damages equal to the amount of Lt. Col. Fandrei's lost benefits, as well as an order that would require United to comply with all the provisions of USERRA.

"USERRA protects the rights of uniformed servicemembers to retain their civilian employment prior to, during and following absences due to military service obligations, and provides that servicemembers shall not be discriminated against because of their military obligations," states the Justice Department. "Under USERRA, the department has authority to represent a servicemember if the department is satisfied that the servicemember is entitled to the rights or benefits being sought."

Lt. Col. Fandrei initially sought relief in a complaint filed with the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service, which investigated and referred it to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department after resolution failed. The lawsuit filed by the Justice Department is a collaborative initiative between the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Illinois.