Huntsman v. Southwest Airlines Co., No. 4:17-cv-03972 (N.D. Cal.)
Updated on October 9, 2019
On July 14, 2017, Southwest Airlines pilot Jayson Huntsman filed a federal veterans rights class action lawsuit against Southwest Airlines alleging that for over a decade hundreds to thousands of Southwest pilots have been denied retirement and sick leave benefits that they are owed under federal law for periods in which they served in the Armed Forces.
The federal law the pilots invoked, the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), requires employers to continue making retirement benefits to their employees who take military leave to serve in the Armed Forces, and to provide servicemembers with benefits that other employees receive when they take leave from their employer.
Huntsman, the lead plaintiff in the class action against Southwest, served for 12 years on active duty in the Air Force. He joined the Air Force Reserves in 2012 and began flying for Southwest Airlines the same year. On dozens of occasions, he took military leave from Southwest to serve in the Air Force Reserves. The Complaint alleges that Southwest did not give Huntsman and other Southwest pilots retirement benefits or sick leave benefits for periods of short term military leave that he alleges are required under USERRA.
On October 4, 2019, the Court granted final approval to a settlement worth approximately $19 million, including $5.8 million for retirement benefits and $13 million worth of restored sick leave. Pursuant to the terms of the Settlement, class members who are current Southwest employees will receive a deposit of sick leave on December 4, 2019, and class members who are former employees will receive a $1,000 payment to be mailed on that date. Payment of class member retirement benefits will be made once Southwest receives confirmation from the Internal Revenue Service that these benefits may be made on a tax-deferred basis.