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USPS could owe $2 million in back pay to fired Army Reservist

The National Guard for decades has provided the U.S. military with trained individuals who are ready to return active duty status in times of crisis or emergency. They maintain their skills by periodic training sessions, often on weekends. However, some employers found that having their employees disappear for longer periods problematic. Some would even terminate those employees, or allow them to come back at lesser grade levels, reduced responsibility or lower pay.

This led Congress to enact the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects those in the military from job discrimination upon their return. With the events of September 11, 2001, many members of the Reserves were called up, often for multiple tours of duty. 

So it was with a staff sergeant with the Army Special Forces in Florida, who was employed the U.S. Postal Service at a mail distribution center. He was fired in 2005 for excessive use of military leave and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) at first agreed with the Postal Service that his military service was not the principal reason for his termination.

He appealed that ruling to the Federal Circuit and that court corrected the MSPB's misunderstanding. Under the USERRA, there is a five-year limit to military service, but the sergeant major had not exceeded that due to exceptions to that limit. The latest decision from the MSPB ruled in favor of the sergeant major, and could result in "two million dollars in back pay, benefits, attorney fees, and retirement enhancements."

Of course, this vindication has taken two MSPB administrative law judge's rulings, three MSPB Board decisions and two trips the Federal Circuit. The Postal Service has 20 days to comply with the order, and one would hope they do not prolong this litigation with yet another appeal

Source: Fedsmith.com, "MSPB Orders USPS to Reinstate Green Beret Removed in 2000," Ralph Smith, January 10, 2014

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