Travers v. FedEx Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-6106

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Writing for the CourtKEARNEY, J.
Citation473 F.Supp.3d 421
Parties Gerard TRAVERS v. FEDEX CORPORATION
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 19-6106
Decision Date20 July 2020

473 F.Supp.3d 421

Gerard TRAVERS
v.
FEDEX CORPORATION

CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-6106

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.

Filed July 20, 2020


473 F.Supp.3d 422

Adam Harrison Garner, The Garner Firm Ltd., Philadelphia, PA, Colin M. Downes, R. Joseph Barton, Block & Leviton LLP, Peter Romer-Friedman, Gupta Wessler, Washington, DC, Matthew Z. Crotty, Crotty & Son Law Firm, PLLC, Thomas G. Jarrard, Spokane, WA, Michael J. Scimone, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, NY, for Gerard Travers.

Colleen Hitch Wilson, Federal Express Corp., Memphis, TN, Mark W. Robertson, Anton Metlitsky, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, New York, NY, M. Tristan Morales, O'Melveny & Myers LLP, Washington, DC, Melissa McCoy Gormly, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., Moon Township, PA, Ryan Thomas Becker, Fox Rothschild LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for FedEx Corporation.

MEMORANDUM

KEARNEY, J.

473 F.Supp.3d 423

Gerard Travers served as a Petty Officer, First Class in the United States Navy and Naval Reserve from 1990 until 2010. During his naval service, Mr. Travers began working as a Federal Express Corporation ("FedEx") courier in 1996. Mr. Travers took military leave from FedEx as a Naval reservist for periods of two weeks in 2006, 2007, and 2009. He also routinely took shorter periods of military leave each year between 2004 and 2010. FedEx did not pay reservist employees taking military leave for thirty days or less but paid all employees full wages or salary sick leave, bereavement leave, and differential pay for jury service.1

Mr. Travers now sues FedEx seeking wages for the days he spent on military leave as a reservist. He focuses on FedEx's employer obligations as defined by Congress in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.2 Mr. Travers asks we declare FedEx violated the Act and order it to calculate and pay him, and other members of his putative class, wages of FedEx reservists when excused for short-term military leave.3

We deeply appreciate Mr. Travers’ service. While Congress ensures a variety of defined benefits and seniority are not affected by his military leave, he worked for a company (FedEx) which does not pay for work not performed by reservists on short-term military leave. Congress requires employers maintain benefits, specifically including pay for work performed before leave. But Congress's words do not include paying Mr. Travers his regular wages while he is on short term military leave. Congress mandates this military leave pay for federal employees but has not extended this pay to private employees who also agree to provide short-term military service. We cannot rewrite statutes to include words which Congress did not put there. We are bound by Congress's text and have no basis to craft private employer wage obligations to our military men and women beyond those required by our elected representatives. We must dismiss Mr. Travers’ complaint.

I. Analysis

FedEx moves to dismiss Mr. Travers’ claim arguing Congress, through the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("the Act"), does not require it to pay wages to employees on

473 F.Supp.3d 424

short-term military leave.4 FedEx argues the text, structure, and legislative history of the Act unambiguously exclude paid leave as a benefit.5 Mr. Travers responds Congress unambiguously provides paid leave as a benefit, and even if we found Congress's text ambiguous, we are required to resolve ambiguities in the Act in favor of servicemembers.6 We ordered supplemental briefing from the parties.7 After considering the parties’ thoughtful arguments on a relatively novel issue of statutory construction, we agree with FedEx as to Congress's mandate and dismiss Mr. Travers’ complaint.8

Mr. Travers argues two sections of the Act support his position. Congress provides in section 4316(b)(1):

(b)(1) ... a person who is absent from a position of employment by reason of service in the uniformed services shall be--

(A) deemed to be on furlough or leave of absence while performing such service; and

(B) entitled to such other rights and benefits not determined by seniority as are generally provided by the employer of the person to employees having similar seniority, status, and pay who are on furlough or leave of absence under a contract, agreement, policy, practice, or plan in effect at the commencement of such service or established while such person performs such service.9

Congress defined the referenced "rights and benefits" in section 4303(2):

[T]he terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, including any advantage, profit, privilege, gain, status, account, or interest (including wages or salary for work performed ) that accrues by reason of an employment contract or agreement or an employer policy, plan, or practice and includes rights and benefits under a pension plan, a health plan, an employee stock ownership plan, insurance coverage
473 F.Supp.3d 425
and awards, bonuses, severance pay, supplemental unemployment benefits, vacations, and the opportunity to select work hours or location of employment.10

Mr. Travers argues section 4316(b)(1) requires FedEx to pay him for short-term military leave of thirty days or less because FedEx paid wages on other comparable "leaves," like jury duty, sick leave, and bereavement leave. To get us there, Mr. Travers argues paid leave meets the Act's definition of "rights and benefits" under section 4303(2). The parties disagree on Congress including paid military leave as a "right[ ] and benefit[ ]," but FedEx does not presently argue military leave is incomparable to jury, sick, and bereavement leaves because resolving this question requires fact development in discovery.11 Following the parties’ lead, we assume military leave is comparable to jury, sick, and bereavement leaves for the purposes of this motion to dismiss.

We start by considering the Act's predecessor statutes, broad statutory scheme, and a related statute providing paid military leave to federal employees. We next turn to the limited case law considering the Act and its predecessor statutes. We then analyze the statutory text Congress enacted. Because we find Congress unambiguously excludes paid military leave from the "rights and benefits" employers must provide equally to reservists and non-reservists, we need not evaluate legislative history to shed light on intent. The Act is not ambiguous. We conclude paid leave is not a benefit Congress guaranteed to military reservists through the Act.12

A. The Act's broader context and related statutes indicate "rights and benefits" does not include paid military leave.

To decide whether statutory language is ambiguous, our Court of Appeals instructs us to evaluate "the language itself, the specific context in which that language is used, and the broader context of the statute as a whole."13 Statutory construction "is a holistic endeavor."14 "A provision that may seem ambiguous in isolation is often clarified by the remainder of the statutory scheme."15 We begin our analysis by considering the broader context of the Act, as we must "construe statutes, not isolated provisions."16

Congress has long protected the employment benefits for military servicemembers who take leaves of absence to serve in the military. The Act's predecessor statutes include the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act and its amendment the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights Act of 1974. In enacting the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, Congress emphasized its continuity with its predecessor statutes and the caselaw developed under the previous military leave statutes.17

473 F.Supp.3d 426

Congress enacted the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act in 1994 to "encourage noncareer service in the uniformed services by eliminating or minimizing the disadvantages to civilian careers and employment which can result from such service."18 The Act prohibits the "deni[al] [of] initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment by an employer on the basis of [a person's] membership, application for membership, performance of service, application for service, or obligation [in a uniformed service]."19 The Act includes sections on non-discrimination,20 reemployment,21 entitlement to benefits after periods of military service,22 and information on entitlement to specific benefit plans like health23 and pension.24

Considering the "broader context of the statute as a whole," FedEx contends Congress would have included a section describing details of paid military leave had it intended to include this requirement in the Act, as it included sections describing entitlement to benefits such as seniority-based and non-seniority-based benefits after periods of uniformed service ( section 4316 ), health ( section 4317 ), and pension ( section 4318 ).25 Mr. Travers does not argue all businesses must provide paid leave for military reservists on short-term military leave—he only contends the Act requires paid leave for military reservists if employers provide...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • Manatt v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., Case No. 2:19-cv-01163-JDW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2020
    ...then its remedy was to show good cause and ask for more time. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure explains that when an act "must be done 473 F.Supp.3d 421 within a specified time, the court may, for good cause, extend the time ...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1). DHS never filed such a motion. It ju......
  • Clarkson v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., NO. 2:19-CV-0005-TOR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of Washington
    • May 24, 2021
    ...of the [USERRA] Act unambiguously excludes paid military leave from its definition of 'rights and benefits.'" Travers v. FedEx Corp., 473 F. Supp. 3d 421, 426 (E.D. Pa. 2020). The disagreement among the courts centers on statutory interpretation. Both the Travers and White courts addressed ......
2 cases
  • Manatt v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., Case No. 2:19-cv-01163-JDW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2020
    ...then its remedy was to show good cause and ask for more time. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure explains that when an act "must be done 473 F.Supp.3d 421 within a specified time, the court may, for good cause, extend the time ...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1). DHS never filed such a motion. It ju......
  • Clarkson v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., NO. 2:19-CV-0005-TOR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of Washington
    • May 24, 2021
    ...of the [USERRA] Act unambiguously excludes paid military leave from its definition of 'rights and benefits.'" Travers v. FedEx Corp., 473 F. Supp. 3d 421, 426 (E.D. Pa. 2020). The disagreement among the courts centers on statutory interpretation. Both the Travers and White courts addressed ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT