USERRA Requires Equal Treatment, Not Preferential Treatment

Ryan Crews is a police officer for the City of Mount Vernon, Illinois. Crews is also a member of the Illinois Army National Guard.

For some time, the City had a practice of allowing Crews and other employees who were part of the Guard to work their scheduled days off in lieu of their regularly scheduled workdays when drill exercises fell on their regularly scheduled workdays. Eventually, the City discontinued the practice of allowing trade days because it had so many members of the Guard. Crews filed a lawsuit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), alleging that the City’s actions constituted discrimination on the basis of his membership in the armed services.

A federal court rejected Crews’ arguments. The Court found that, by discontinuing the trade days, the City merely relegated members of the Guard to the same status as other employees, who were not allowed to trade shifts under comparable circumstances. The Court held that USERRA “contains no specific language imposing a requirement on employers to provide a special work schedule for reservists not generally granted to other employees. It seems that if Congress wanted to require employers to make work schedule accommodations for the reservists, it would have done so expressly. If this Court were to find that USERRA requires the City to provide special work hour scheduling for Crews and other military reservists, then it would impose preferential treatment, not equal treatment, upon military reservists. However, equal, not preferential treatment is what is required under USERRA.”

Crews v. City of Mount Vernon, 2008 WL 2224898 (S.D.Ill. 2008).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue