Supreme Court to Decide Whether Veterans Can Sure State Governments for Discrimination

The Supreme Court will decide whether Congress can give military service members the right to file civil lawsuits against states for employment discrimination based on their military service, in a case about how much power the federal government has regarding military forces.

In December, the justices granted a writ of certiorari, meaning they will hear an appeal filed by Le Roy Torres, a state trooper for the Texas Department of Public Safety who alleged discrimination based on his veteran’s status under USERRA, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA prohibits discrimination against veterans, protects the jobs of national guardsman who must be away from work for trainings and deployments, and allows affected service members to file suit against their employers in federal court.

In Mr. Torres’ case, a Texas state appeals court ruled that Congress can’t give service members the right to file such a lawsuit against State Government employers based on the doctrine of state sovereign immunity. Mr. Torres, however, contends that the War Powers granted to the federal government in the constitution override the doctrine of sovereign immunity and allows service members to bring suits against the state. The case will be important as state governments employ large number of veterans across the county, and a decision in favor of the employer could negatively affect their right to fight back against discrimination based on veteran’s status