(CBS 11 News & The Department of Justice) Fort Worth based American Airlines, Inc. is being sued by the Department of Justice. Federal officials claim American violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Dallas, alleges American violated USERRA by denying pilots three pilots’ employment benefits during their military service. Two of those are pilots in the Naval Reserve and hold the ranks of Captain and Commander, respectively. The third serves as a pilot in the South Dakota Air National Guard and holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
As long as there is more than 1 unrelated party involved, but on a similar-enough set of facts, the courts can choose to merge them all together into a class-action suit (with the "class" of people affect being "AA Pilots who were denied benefits during military service"), for the sake of judicial efficiency. Could be 2, 3, or 3,000,000. This also allows for the possibility that AA's alleged actions also affected others of that class of people.
One important difference here from the usual class action lawsuit is that the suing party here is the Fed (DoJ to be precise). Not to say AA will not prevail because of it but it makes it a slightly different situation in terms of PR implications compared to a typical "victimized" class action lawsuits especially considering the nature of the claimed victimization.
The Department of Justice said Thursday night that it filed the lawsuit in U.S. district court in Dallas on behalf of three Naval Reserve and Air National Guard pilots.
Officials said it was the first time they had filed a class-action case charging an employer with violating a 1994 law designed to protect employees who leave their jobs temporarily to serve in military units.
The government charged that American conducted an audit in 2001 and cut benefits of pilots who took leave for military service but didn't reduce benefits of pilots who took other types of leave.
“No reservists — indeed, no members of our armed forces — should ever be punished or discriminated against for answering the call of duty,” said Wan J. Kim, assistant Attorney General for civil rights.
Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American Airlines, declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit.
Wagner said many pilots come out of the military and have obligations for further service. “We are committed to doing our best to help them do their duty to their country,” he said.
Wagner declined to say whether employees who take leave for military service or any other reason lose their benefits while they are gone.
The government said efforts to settle the cases had failed.