Thursday, March 3, 2011

Two SCOTUS rulings you may not have even heard about

The Supreme Court issued two unanimous decisions on Tuesday reflecting solicitude for members of the military.
In one, the court relaxed a filing deadline that had served to deny benefits to disabled veterans. In the other, it made it easier for military personnel to sue private employers for discriminating against them based on hostility to their service. 

The first case, Henderson v. Shinseki, No. 09-1036, concerned David L. Henderson, who was discharged from the military in 1952 after receiving a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He sought additional government help for his condition in 2001, and he was turned down in 2004. 

Mr. Henderson missed a 120-day deadline to file an appeal by 15 days. He attributed the lapse to the very disability for which he had sought help. 

The second case, Staub v. Proctor Hospital, No. 09-400, concerned the interpretation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on membership in or an obligation to perform “uniformed service.” The law is similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex and other factors. 

Vincent Staub, an Army reservist and a civilian technician at an Illinois hospital, sued after he was fired by the hospital, saying his military status was a motivating factor in his termination. There was evidence that two of Mr. Staub’s supervisors were hostile to him because his military duties had caused him to be absent from work one weekend a month and two or three weeks a year.

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