Enterprise Software

Company liable in firing of reservist

In what may be a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court found that a hospital is liable in firing an employee who claims his supervisors had a problem with his military obligations.

In a case that has more twists and turns than a conversation with Charlie Sheen, the Supreme court has ruled that Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Illinois is liable in a case in which they fired an employee, who was in the U.S. Army Reserve, in 2004.

The plaintiff, Vincent E. Staub, claimed that two of his supervisors were hostile to his military obligations, and one allegedly made a false complaint to the hospital's vice president of human resources, who partially relied on that report to terminate his employment in 2004.

Staub sued the hospital under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 and a jury awarded him $57,640 in damages. But the case was dismissed by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which stated that the case "could not succeed unless the nondecision-maker exercised such ‘singular influence' over the decision-maker that the decision to terminate was the product of ‘blind reliance.'" In the other words, the HR staffer did not base the firing entirely on the supervisor's report.

However, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of overturning the 7th Circuit opinion and remanding that the case return to the 7th Circuit with instructions to decide whether to reinstate the jury verdict or to order a new trial.

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Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

5 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We don't have the details on the employer's hostile behavior for this retired Guardsman to comment. Questor1 is correct about service members having better protection under the federal USERRA law than state laws.

patg00
patg00

The ruling was not "that a hospital is liable in firing an employee who claims his supervisors had a problem with his military obligations." but that the Appeals Court could not use the argument "which stated that the case ???could not succeed unless the nondecision-maker exercised such ???singular influence??? over the decision-maker that the decision to terminate was the product of ???blind reliance.?????? In the other words, the HR staffer did not base the firing entirely on the supervisor???s report." The Supremes stated that either the case needed to be retried, or the original verdict should stand, not that the hospital did anything wrong.

Questor1
Questor1

The reason the Reservist filed lawsuit under the "Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994" is that Federal laws better protect members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. However, State laws often do not adequately protect members of the state National Guard in the same situation as this federal govt soldier losing a job at a Hospital. Each state has its own laws how state employees, including soldiers in the state militia, are subject to state Administrative Laws. If the Reservist was a member of the Ohio National Guard, he would have little legal recourse against the public Hospital that fired him for his military service or alleged lies of the hospital staff that caused his firing. Employment in Ohio is considered "at will", even though he would be protecting Ohio and representing Ohio as a soldier in the Ohio National Guard. It is strange how some States in the USA treat soldiers in the state militia as second class citizens as in Ohio by not legally protecting soldiers in their regular jobs, while other states treat these volunteer soldiers much better. It is even more weird when the Federal government gives soldiers more legal rights than those granted by some States. All soldiers in state and federal military active service should be granted the same legal rights to their job when they return.

latscom
latscom

I support all military personel and think that they need more support, however I did work with someone in the Air National Guard who abuse it - having someone call the office to report he caught a flight to somewhere and wouldn't be in that day...

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But that's a disciplinary issue, and, if proven, he [u]can[/u] lose his job over that.

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