White v. United Airlines, Inc., No. 19-2546 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
White has been employed as a commercial airline pilot since 2005 and has also served in the U.S. Air Force since 2000, first on active duty and now on reserve duty. As a reservist, he is required to attend periodic military-training sessions. White has taken periods of short-term military leave, usually for a day or two at a time, during which he did not receive pay from United. Under United’s collective bargaining agreement, pilots receive pay when they take other short-term leaves of absence, such as jury duty or sick leave. United also maintains a profit-sharing plan for its pilots that is based on the wages they earn; pilots who take paid sick leave or paid leave for jury duty earn credit toward their profit-sharing plan, while pilots who take short-term military leave do not. White initiated a class action under the 1994 Uniformed Services Employee and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which is intended to prevent civilian employers from discriminating against employees because of their military service, 38 U.S.C. 4301(a). The district court dismissed White’s complaint.
The Seventh Circuit reversed. 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. Paid leave falls within the “rights and benefits” defined by the statute.