Nine months after a jury found his employer liable for firing a reservist called to active duty after the 9/11 attacks, a federal judge awarded Michael Serricchio over $1.3M in damages on his federal claim in a decision handed down late last week.
It is believed to be the largest judgment ever awarded under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal law that protects service members’ reemployment rights when returning from a period of service in the uniformed services, including those called up from the reserves or National Guard, and prohibits employer discrimination based on military service or obligation.
The Hartford Courant had a lengthy piece over the weekend spelling out the reaction to the court’s decision including much of its background.
While the amount of the court’s judgment is significant, the outcome wasn’t that unexpected after a jury decided the issue of liability last summary. The federal court only had to decide what, if any damages, it would award. Before the court held the bench trial on damages, it afforded each party the opportunity to submit trial briefs on the issue. You can view the employer’s brief here and the employee’s brief here. The court held a bench trial last fall on the issue of damages and issued its decision late last week.
For employers, USERRA is one of the least-understood federal employment laws. Back in 2007, I discussed it at length. The Department of Labor also has an extensive website on the subject. For employers with reservists or those called to active duty, understanding USERRA is crucial to avoiding expensive and time-consuming claims under that law.