Clarkson v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 02-01-2023
  • Case #: 21-35473
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Paez, C.J. for the Court; Bade, C.J; & Gilliam, D.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

“USERRA § 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves.”

Petitioner, a commercial pilot and military reservist, filed a class action claiming Respondents violated a provision of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) by only offering unpaid short-term military leave. “USERRA § 4316(b)(1) requires employers to provide employees who take military leave with the same non-seniority rights and benefits as their colleagues who take comparable non-military leaves.” Petitioner and other class members employed by Respondents took at least one unpaid short-term military leave. Respondents motioned for summary judgment, arguing that short-term military leave is not comparable to any form of non-military paid leave offered to their employees. The district court granted the motion ruling that the evidence presented to support Respondents’ argument was sufficient to establish the three statutory factors required to sustain a finding of “significant differences” between military and non-military leave – duration of leave, purpose of leave, and control over when to take leave. The Court held that comparability of military and non-military leave is fundamentally a question of fact, and any disputes about comparability are issues for a jury to decide. The Court reasoned that because the district court made factual findings in its comparability analysis as to each factor that accepted the contentions of Respondents and ignored or rejected the contentions made by Petitioner, the district court erred in granting Respondents’ motion. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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