Amazon Facing Proposed Nationwide Lawsuit for Not Paying Employees on Short-Term Military Leave

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Amazon Facing Proposed Nationwide Lawsuit for Not Paying Employees on Short-Term Military Leave
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Amazon is facing a proposed class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former employees across the country who took short-term military leave between October 10th, 2004 through the present. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon is in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by habitually denying employed servicemembers the same short-term leave benefits applied to employees who take off work for jury duty and bereavement.

USERRA is designed to protect military servicemembers from discrimination in their civilian employment.

Among other requirements set forth in USERRA, the Act prohibits employers from denying benefits and other employment rights to servicemembers on the basis of their military service. Any employment opportunities including raises, promotions, paid leave, and more must be made equally available to servicemembers. When a company fails to offer employed servicemembers the same professional opportunities as non-servicemember employees, the employed servicemembers may be eligible to file a claim with USERRA to correct the issue.

The plaintiff alleges that Amazon does not offer servicemembers the same short-term leave benefits as other employees.

The plaintiff in this class action lawsuit points out that while Amazon offers paid leave to employees who are required to be away from work due to government obligations like jury duty or bereavement when a loved one dies, the company does not pay servicemembers who are required to take time off from their civilian job for short-term military leave of 30 days or less. Short-term military obligations that require short-term leave could include mandatory orders, military training, and more. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many national guard servicemembers found themselves activated to help with testing and vaccine sites.

The lawsuit alleges that Amazon’s short-term leave policy for servicemembers is in direct violation of USERRA requirements.

Amazon’s practice of paying short-term leave for non-military related leave and refusing to pay comparable short-term leave for military reasons is estimated to have affected around 8,000 workers from 2004 through the present. The official class action complaint sums up the plaintiff’s allegation on behalf of this proposed class as follows: “Amazon’s failure to implement the same pay policies for short-term military leave as it provides for short term nonmilitary leave, such as jury duty or bereavement leave, constitutes a violation of USERRA’s prohibition on treating military leave less favorably than other similar types of leave.”

Amazon is not the first employer to face this particular allegation.

In January of 2021, Walmart agreed to settle a nearly identical class-action lawsuit alleging that the company did not honor USERRA’s requirement for equal treatment of servicemember employees, particularly in regard to pay for short-term leave. Walmart agreed to settle the issue for $14 million and an agreement to implement new military leave policies ensuring service members received the same short-term leave benefits as other employees.

The proposed class-action lawsuit against Amazon is seeking similar damages, “...including but not limited to unpaid wages and lost earnings and other benefits of employment, liquidated damages, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs.” Big-name employers are expected to set an example for abiding by USERRA requirements and committing to fair treatment of servicemember employees.

If you suspect your employer is withholding employment benefits or opportunities based on your military service, reach out to a military rights attorney or Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves ombudsman to discuss your options.

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