The Chicago Employment Law Blog

High Court To Hear Case Of Fired Illinois Army Reservist

The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Peoria lab technician and U.S. Army Reservist Vincent Staub, who claims he was fired as a result of his supervisor's anti-military bias. Oral arguments for the case, Staub v. Proctor Hospital, are scheduled for the fall.

Vincent Staub was terminated from his job in 2004 after 15 years as a lab technician at Proctor Hospital. He was called up for active duty in the Iraq War in 2003, primarily to help other soldiers set up radiology units in a field hospital.

He sued his employer and a jury found that his immediate supervisor fired him out of "her negative opinion of Staub's military service." His lawsuit was filed under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects National Guardsmen and Reservists from biased treatment connected to their military service, the Peoria Journal Star explains.

He was awarded $57,640 in damages, but the federal appeals court in Chicago reversed the decision based on the fact that the actual decision-maker in the company did not share his immediate supervisor's biased views. The immediate supervisor it was decided, merely recommended he be fired, but did not do the firing herself. 

Now the nation's highest court will hear the case. But it's not so much a case about anti-military bias and will narrowly consider the issue of whether an employer is liable for discriminatory acts of lower-level supervisors who do not make final personnel decisions.  

One of Vincent Staub's Illinois employment lawyers, Eric Schnapper, explained that U.S. appellate courts are split on the issue now before the Supreme Court:

"The court had granted review of this same issue but that case dropped out. Another time, a similar issue was going to be reviewed but then it settled. I guess they were waiting for the right case to come along to settle the matter."

The attorney said he expects a decision in about a year.

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