WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court handed victories Tuesday to a U.S. Army reservist in a job discrimination case and to a mentally ill military veteran who missed a filing deadline in appealing a benefits denial.
In one ruling, the high court unanimously sided with Vincent Staub, who said his service in the U.S. Army Reserve led to his firing from his job as a medical technician at a hospital in Peoria, Ill.
Citing a federal law designed to prevent job bias against members of the military, Justice Antonin Scalia said an employer can be held liable for discriminatory acts by supervisors who do not make the final employment decisions.
Staub was fired in 2004 after 15 years at the hospital. A member of the reserves since 1984, he was called to active duty in 2003 for the war in Iraq. He said he was fired because of anti-military bias of his immediate supervisor and her boss.
A jury found in Staub's favor and awarded him $57,640 in damages. But a U.S. appeals court threw out the award because a more senior executive made the final decision to fire Staub.
The Supreme Court agreed with Staub, who argued the anti-military hostility of the two supervisors had influenced the executive's decision.
In the other decision, the court unanimously ruled that the wife of a military veteran, who died last year, can continue his appeal of the benefits denial, even though he missed a filing deadline.
David Henderson was discharged from the military in 1952 after receiving a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. He sought additional benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs Department in 2001 and was turned down in 2004.
He missed a 120-day deadline to appeal to a veterans court by 15 days.
Justice Samuel Alito said in the court's opinion that the entire administrative scheme was designed to help veterans. He rejected a rigid adherence to the 120-day rule and the "harsh consequences" that would result.
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