UAL And Pilots Resolve Military Leave Pay Case

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A U.S. District Judge in Denver, Colo., has approved a $6.15 million settlement of a lawsuit between United Airlines and 1,160 United pilots who served in the military from 2000 to 2010—resulting in one of the largest reported payments to resolve a claim brought under the federal veterans’ reemployment rights law, known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act or USERRA. The settlement resolves a 2012 complaint filed by James Daniel Tuten, a United Airlines pilot who took military leave to serve in the U.S. Air Force. Tuten claimed that from 2000 to 2010 United failed to provide its pilots with the correct pension contributions that federal law requires employers to make for employees who take military leave. United had calculated pilots’ pension contributions based on compensation associated with the minimum monthly wage that pilots receive, but Tuten claimed that federal law required United to make pension contributions based on each pilot’s average compensation in the 12-month period before a period of military service.

Tuten said of the settlement: “In the military we have each others' backs and we work for the greater good.  When we started this we wanted to make sure that everyone was made whole. We accomplished that through this outstanding settlement. I especially want to thank United Airlines for their willingness to step up and make things right for all service members involved in this case.” United has agreed to make a number of reforms to its policy for making pension contributions to pilots who return from long-term military leave. In approving the settlement, Judge William J. Martinez, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado, wrote that each of the relevant factors for considering the approval of a class action settlement “weighs in favor of the finding that the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate. Even more, the Court is of the view that the results achieved for the Plaintiff class in this case were outstanding, worthy of being emulated by class representatives and counsel in other comparable litigation.”