Court Battles

Supreme Court takes up wounded Iraq War veteran’s job discrimination claim

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to review an appeal by a member of the U.S. Army Reserves who claims his former employer discriminated against him after he sustained injuries during his deployment to the Iraq War.

Reservist Le Roy Torres had been employed as a Texas state trooper when he was called up to active duty and deployed to Iraq in 2007. Like thousands of other U.S. service members, Torres was exposed to toxic fumes from infamous “burn pits” that operated near his military base, causing him lung damage.

After being honorably discharged, Torres sought to be reemployed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Unable to perform his duties as a Texas state trooper due to a diagnosis of constrictive bronchiolitis, he requested a different job within the department — an accommodation that was refused, leading Torres to resign, according to his court filings.

Torres sued his former employer in Texas state court in 2017, seeking more than $5 million under a federal law known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

USERRA, signed by President Clinton in 1994, makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of military service.

Torres’s case has drawn interest from advocates who say that granting Texas a legal victory would make it harder to recruit and retain military service members.

Torres appealed to the Supreme Court after losing in Texas state court. Texas had urged the justices to reject Torres’s appeal, arguing that the state court had correctly determined that USERRA unlawfully infringes on state’s rights.

The Biden administration had also recommended the justices’ deny Torres’s appeal.

The case, Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, has not been scheduled for oral argument.

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