Court Finds in Favor of Veteran Whose Employer Denied His Disability Accommodation Request

A former Texas state trooper recently won a $2.4 million verdict against the Texas Highway Patrol under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). In his lawsuit, the former law enforcement officer alleged that the state agency failed to accommodate a disability that he sustained during military service. Although a Texas appellate court ruled in 2018 that the state had immunity from the USERRA lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in June 2022 that state government employers had no sovereign immunity from such lawsuits.

In 2007, former trooper and Army reservist Le Roy Torres deployed to Iraq, where exposure to toxic burn pits left him with a severe respiratory condition that made him unable to perform the duties of a state trooper. Torres asked the state agency to rehire him in a role accommodating his disability, but the agency refused. In response, Torres resigned and sued the state in 2017.

The Torres case illustrates the far-reaching nature of USERRA. Although its application is relatively narrow, it goes well beyond many other anti-discrimination laws in various ways. First, it applies to almost all employers, including state governments. Those individuals covered by the law are not required to pursue relief through any administrative agency, such as the EEOC, before seeking relief in court.

Furthermore, USERRA’s definition of disability is more expansive under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For instance, disabilities under USERRA need not substantially limit one or more of the individual’s major life activities, as they must under the ADA.

However, just like under the ADA, the employer does not have to provide the requested accommodation if it constitutes an undue burden, or a significant difficulty or expense.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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