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Huhmann v. FedEx, et al. (USERRA)

Recent USERRA Victory

Huhmann v FedEx, et al., Southern District of California, Case No. 3:13-CV-00787-BAS-NLS

On April 1, 2015, we went to trial against Federal Express Corporation for its failure to pay the proper signing bonus to our client, one of FedEx’ pilots and a retired United States Air Force Reserve officer. Our client was a 727 Second Officer and had been selected for an upgrade to MD-11 First Officer. Two weeks before he was scheduled to start his MD-11 upgrade training, our client mobilized to active duty and deployed, returning to FedEx more than three and a half years later. During his absence, FedEx offered a signing bonus to all its pilots who were on “active service” and specifically designated military leave periods as “active service” for the time the bonus was paid. When our client returned to FedEx from his military leave, he was paid the signing bonus as a 727 Second Officer, not as an MD-11 First Officer, a difference of $10,300. Despite complaining to the union and filing a complaint with DOL-VETS, both of which agreed that he should have been paid the higher of the two bonuses, FedEx refused to comply.

The only issue at trial was whether USERRA’s escalator principle (Section 4313) mandated that our client be paid the higher of the two signing bonuses because it was “reasonably certain” that he would have been an MD-11 First Officer “but for” his military service obligations. FedEx’ position, among other efforts to deflect the issue, was that the bonus was a “non-seniority based benefit” under Section 4316 and, according to FedEx, not protected by USERRA.

On April 9, 2015, the Honorable Cynthia Bashant issued an Order of Judgment for our client, ordering FedEx to pay him the full signing bonus, plus awarding Plaintiff pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and costs. You can read the Court’s Order here.