Some cases come close to home for every lawyer. For me, its cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I served in Iraq 2005-06 as a Reserve officer. So, I have some familiarity with veteran issues. The stigma regarding PTSD is often overblown. In this case reported by WFAA in Dallas, a veteran suffered reprisal because his employer believed he might have issues from PTSD. Rodney Bennett, a National Guard member, served a tour in Iraq and a tour in Afgahanistan. See WFAA news report. He returned to his job as a law enforcement officer with the Dallas Independent School District.
After his second tour, he was demoted from police officer to dispatcher. He was fired because he would not accept the demotion. Mr. Bennet says he was perceived as having possible issues from PTSD – simply because he had served two tours. Mr. Bennett has been to the VA clinics, but declined to state whether he has been diagnosed with PTSD. That is too bad. In my opinion, a great many vets have been diagnoised with PTSD but function just fine in their daily lives. Regardless of his diagnosis, his employer should have looked at him based on actual medical records, not perceived possibilities.
Fortunately, this National Guardsman did not file under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The USERRA has some nice features regarding proving discrimination against a service member. But, the damages available to the successful plaintiff are low. They can only recover lost pay and benefits and court costs. Since compensatory damages (emotional suffering) and punitive damages are not available, the cases are seen as less lucrative by some plaintiff employment lawyers. A lawyer in another state mentioned to me recently that he would turn away such cases in the future due to the low recovery available.
Liquidated damages are available when the violation is found to be "willful." See DOL web page. But, the circumstances of most cases suggest that most violations will not be found to be willful. For example, a Reservist who returns with a medical diagnosis of some sort may be fired for medical reasons wholly unrelated to his Reserve duty.