City’s Military Leave Policy Violates Federal Law

Kenny Benetiz was hired as a police officer by the City of Montebello, California in May 2007. In 2008, Benetiz was notified by the Marine Corps that he was being activated for military service. Benetiz began his military service in January 2009, and was deployed to the war zone in Iraq.

Under the City’s policies, Benetiz did not continue to accrue annual leave while on his military leave of absence. Other City policies do allow employees to accrue annual leave if they are on paid leaves of absence, or if they are taking time off with their accrued time off hours. Also, City employees taking a workers’ compensation leave are allowed to accrue time off during their leave of absence.

A federal court found that the City’s policies violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Act (USERRA). The Court ruled that “since the City allows employees taking similar non-USERRA leaves to accrue vacation while on these leaves, the City should have granted Benetiz the same rights. Also, the City treats military leave similar to a disciplinary leave, which is inappropriate under USERRA. Had the City complied with federal law and its own policy, Benetiz would have been allowed to accrue vacation while on military leave.”

Benetiz v. City of Montebello, 2010 WL 3814374 (C.D. Cal. 2010).

This article appears in the January 2011 issue