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Walmart changes military leave policy, agrees to pay up to $14 million for reservists’ claims

Marine Corps Times

Walmart and an Army reservist have reached an agreement to settle his claims regarding paid military leave that could ultimately pay up to $14 million to thousands of Guard and Reserve members.

The proposed settlement, if approved by the court, could include more than 7,000 current and former Walmart employees who have taken military leave since October 2004, according to court documents. Walmart has also changed its policy as of Jan. 1, to increase the paid military leave benefit during shorter-term military duties.

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The reservist, Nickolas Tsui, of Dracut, Massachusetts, alleges Walmart violated his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, known as USERRA. Tsui, who is currently employed at a Sam’s Club store operated by Walmart in Hudson, New Hampshire, alleges that Walmart violated his USERRA rights by not providing fully paid leave when he took short-term military leave — leave that lasts 30 consecutive days or fewer.

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Under USERRA, employers aren’t specifically required to pay Guard and Reserve members while they are performing military duties, although a number of employers, including Walmart, do. But this case revolves around another aspect of USERRA, which requires military leave to be treated no less favorably than any other forms of comparable leave that an employer provides to its employees, according to the complaint. “By providing fully paid leave to associates who take jury duty leave, bereavement leave, and other comparable forms of leave, Walmart was obligated by USERRA… to do the same for its associates who take short-term military leave,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that, since 2017, for most types of military leave of at least four days, Walmart has paid its employees the difference between their pay at Walmart and their military pay, commonly known as differential pay. But Walmart has never provided fully paid leave to employees who have taken short-term military leave of three days or less, according to the lawsuit.

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As part of the settlement, Walmart has implemented a new policy, effective on Jan. 1, that provides fully paid leave for employees who take up to 30 days of military leave in a calendar year. When the employee takes more than 30 days of military leave in a calendar year, the employee may be eligible for differential pay for the additional days of military leave — the difference between their Walmart pay and their military pay, if their Walmart pay is greater than their military pay — for up to 12 months.

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