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Seventh Circuit holds that employers may have to provide paid USERRA leave if it provides pay for other comparable leaves

USERRA is the federal military leave law that requires employers to provide workers time-off for military-related leaves. USERRA leave is generally unpaid. However USERRA, sec. 4316(b),  provides that employees must receive “such other rights and benefits not determined by seniority as are generally provided by the employer of the person to employees having similar seniority, status, and pay who are on furlough or leave of absence under a contract, agreement, policy, practice, or plan in effect at the commencement of such or established while such person performs such service.”

The Seventh Circuit recently held in a case involving United Airlines that sec. 4316(b)’s “other rights and benefits” language includes “comparable” paid leave. The Seventh Circuit looked to DOL regulations, 20 CFR 1002.150(b), that explain paid leave is “comparable” and must be provided to USERRA leave-takers if is is comparable in terms of “the duration of the leave,” as well as “the purpose of the leave and the ability of the employee to choose when to take the leave.” However, it cautioned as to the last factor — the ability to schedule leave — an employee’s voluntary decision to enlist should not be considered.

Did United Airlines owe its pilot pay for time he took off for “periodic military-training sessions” under its jury duty policy, its sick leave policy or any of its “other short-term” paid leave policies? The Seventh Circuit held it did not have sufficient evidence to weight the comparability of such leaves; therefore, it remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration.

Source: White v. United Airlines, Inc., — F.3d —, 2021 WL 365210 (7th Cir. 2/3/2021)