Committee’s Deputy Director for Litigation Delivers Oral Argument in 11th Circuit for Army Reserve Member Forced to Waive His USERRA Rights

MONTGOMERY, AL - The Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s Deputy Director for Litigation Peter Romer-Friedman delivered the oral argument in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Montgomery, Alabama yesterday on behalf of Rodney Bodine, a U.S. Army Reservist whose employer – Cook’s Pest Control – forced Bodine to waive his rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and compelled arbitration of his USERRA action.

Click here to read the brief for Plaintiff-Appellant Bodine...

Bodine was hired by Cook’s in 2012.  From the outset of his employment, Bodine’s supervisor repeatedly told him that employees who serve in the military don’t work out at Cook’s, incessantly pressured Bodine to quit the military, and shamed Bodine in front of other employees because he served in the military.  Ultimately, Cook’s fired Bodine because Bodine decided to renew his contract with the Army Reserve.  When Bodine took action to enforce his rights under USERRA, Cook’s moved to compel arbitration and the district court granted the motion. 

In the appeal, Bodine is asking the Eleventh Circuit to hold that USERRA’s section that prohibits the waiver of rights, 38 U.S.C. 4302(b), bars employers from enforcing employment agreements that limit the rights of service members under USERRA.  In 2015, the district court held that specific contractual provisions that limit USERRA rights can be severed from an employment agreement.  As a result, even though Bodine’s arbitration agreement included provisions that eliminated Bodine’s USERRA rights to not pay any legal fees of an employer, to not pay any costs, and to not face any statute of limitations, the district court severed those provisions and enforced the rest of the arbitration agreement.

In the appeal, Bodine is represented by the Committee’s Deputy Director of Litigation, Peter Romer-Friedman, who once served as an advisor to Senate Labor Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy on USERRA and other veterans rights issues; Kathryn Piscitelli, a leading authority on USERRA and co-author of The USERRA Manual (Thomson Reuters 2015); and Samuel Fisher and Sidney Jackson of Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher Goldfarb.

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee is currently litigating USERRA claims in both individual and class action cases on behalf of service members and veterans.

Contact: Peter Romer-Friedman
202.644.7080 | peter_romerfriedman@washlaw.org 

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