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Clinic efforts instrumental in passage of new law clarifying USERRA

Clinic efforts instrumental in passage of new law clarifying USERRA

On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive legislation that would lower the rate of unemployment among our nation’s veterans. The legislation contains a clarification of the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) explaining that those serving in the military are protected against harassment based upon military service. This issue was the subject of a petition for certiorari that Penn State Law students in the Appellate Civil Rights Clinic drafted as co-counsel in Carder v. Continental Airlines, Inc. 

While the petition was pending, the Clinic staff met with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), urging them to clarify their interpretations of USERRA. "Although the petition was ultimately denied by the Supreme Court of the United States, the meeting with the DOL and DOJ proved to be a crucial component to the Congressional clarification," said Clinical Fellow Kimberly Hibbard '11.

After some additional collaboration, the agency issued a clarification of USERRA in its Annual Report to Congress, urging Congress to amend the statute to clarify that harassment based upon military status is indeed prohibited by USERRA. Congress made that clarification in Section 251 of the VOW Act, and the congressional debate of the VOW Act referenced the DOL’s Annual Report as one of the reasons for its action. 

"The assistance, guidance, and support that Professor Foreman and his clinic students provided to Pilot Law in preparing our petition for writ of certiorari was invaluable. Their work with the Department of Labor, the Solicitor General, and other law clinics across the country has been instrumental in raising awareness of the importance that servicemembers are affored the proper protections under USERRA," said Pilot Law, P.C. attorney Alexandra Taylor. "We look forward to working with the Clinic in future endeavors."

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