Appellate Court Keeps USERRA Claim Alive

November 15, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal appeals court has sent back to a lower court a case involving the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to see if an employee was improperly discharged because of his military service.

The US 8 th Circuit Court of Appeals said that plaintiff Darold Maxfield deserved a chance to try to prove that his employer, Cintas, violated USERRA when it transferred him to less desirable jobs and ultimately discharged him.

The appellate ruling, written by Senior Circuit Judge Theodore McMillan, said that Maxfield succeeded in showing that his military status was a motivating factor in Cintas’ decisions against him.

The 8 th Circuit stated that discriminatory motivation under the USERRA could be inferred from the proximity in time between Maxfield’s military activity and the adverse employment actions, as well as by inconsistencies among the stated reasons for the adverse decisions.

Maxfield was transferred on the day he returned from military leave. In addition, discrimination could be inferred from the fact that the company called a military base to determine whether his presence was imperative and by the company’s visit to the base to discuss sales deficits.

Further, Cintas was unable to offer any evidence that it would have taken the same action against Maxfield without his military status. The supervisor’s explanation for the firing – that Maxfield had been dishonest regarding his sick and vacation days – was inconsistent with the company’s policy that those days could be substituted for military leave.  Maxfield had specifically asked the company’s payroll clerk to substitute the paid days off for some of his military leave.

The ruling in Maxfield v. Cintas Corp., 8th Cir., No. 04-2979 (Oct. 31, 2005) is  here .

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