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Southwest Airlines and Armed Service Members USERRA Class Action

This class action brings suit against Southwest Airlines Co. (SWA). The complaint alleges SWA limited the benefits available under its Covid-19 Extended Emergency Time Off (ExTO) program for those on military leave in a way that violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

The class for this action is all those who are or were employees of SWA, who are or were members of the US Armed Services or National Guard, who took military leave between March 1, 2020 and the date the class is certified, and who did not receive the pay and benefits provided under SWA’s ExTO program.

Plaintiff Barry Weaver is in the District of Columbia Air National Guard. He is also a pilot with SWA, hired in August 2018.

USERRA prohibits “discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services.” An employer violates the law if a person’s membership or service “in the uniformed services is a motivating factor in the employer’s action, unless the employer can prove that the action would have been taken in the absence of” such membership or service.

The complaint alleges, “In an effort to save costs, in or about March 2020, and again in May 2020, SWA actively encouraged employees to take the maximum military leave possible over the 2020 to early 2021 time periods.”

Around June 1, 2020, SWA announced its ExTO program, a leave of absence that provides the absent employees with reduced pay and full benefits. Employees were allowed to volunteer for periods of from six months to five years.

The complaint claims, “Per the terms of the ExTO program, active employees were eligible so long as they were not absent due to a leave of absence, and all active pilots who have a valid medical clearance and who were not on a leave of absence were eligible to request the ExTO program.” Employees who were interested in the program were supposed to enroll between June 1 and July 15, 2020.

Around June 30, 2020, SWA told military pilots that those currently on military leave were allowed to bid for ExTO, but that they would not receive the benefits of the program until their military leave was finished. The start date for the ExTO program was estimated to be September 1, 2020.

Plaintiff Weaver was on a long-term military leave of absence between July 16, 2019 and July 31, 2021. The complaint alleges, “Following the request of the company in March and again in May 2020, [Weaver] was able to have an additional military order issued to allow for a return to work with SWA at a later date.”

He applied for the ExTO program during the appropriate window of time and was awarded a five-year ExTO. However, according to the complaint, “Because [Weaver] was on military leave during the ExTO bidding process, he was and is being denied the pay and benefits under the ExTO program.” The complaint claims this is a violation of USERRA.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Employment

Most Recent Case Event

Southwest Airlines and Armed Service Members USERRA Complaint

July 28, 2021

This class action brings suit against Southwest Airlines Co. (SWA). The complaint alleges SWA limited the benefits available under its Covid-19 Extended Emergency Time Off (ExTO) program for those on military leave in a way that violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

Southwest Airlines and Armed Service Members USERRA Complaint

Case Event History

Southwest Airlines and Armed Service Members USERRA Complaint

July 28, 2021

This class action brings suit against Southwest Airlines Co. (SWA). The complaint alleges SWA limited the benefits available under its Covid-19 Extended Emergency Time Off (ExTO) program for those on military leave in a way that violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

Southwest Airlines and Armed Service Members USERRA Complaint
Tags: Employment Violations, USERRA/Military Leave Violations