February 09, 2022

Congressman Castro Leads SCOTUS Amicus Brief Supporting Disabled Texas Veteran

WASHINGTON – Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) led five other members of Congress in filing an amicus brief to weigh in on Torres v. Texas, a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that threatens the civilian job rights and benefits of servicemembers and veterans under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) of 1994.

“Our nation has an obligation to stand up for veterans like they stood up for us,” said Congressman Castro. “For years, I’ve worked to make sure veterans exposed to toxic burn pits can access the treatment and support they need. Le Roy Torres served his nation bravely in Iraq, and the Texas Department of Public Safety should have been honored to accommodate his disability. By upholding USERRA’s common-sense protections, the Supreme Court can ensure that Texas veterans are not abandoned by our state when they return to civilian life.”

USERRA protects disabled veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate their disability, and entitles veterans and servicemembers to return to civilian employment upon completion of their service with the same status, seniority, and rate of pay that they would have obtained if they had remained continuously employed by their civilian employer. The statute also authorizes lawsuits against a civilian employer – including a state and local government employer – if the employer discriminates against an individual based on their military service. USERRA’s cause of action against state employers may only be pursued in state courts.

In Torres v. Texas, retired Army Captain Le Roy Torres was forced to resign from his job as a Texas state trooper when the Texas Department of Public Safety would not provide accommodations for a respiratory condition resulting from repeated exposure to toxic burn pits during his service as a reservist in Iraq. Torres sued the department under USERRA, however a Texas appellate court held that the law’s cause of action is unconstitutional because Congress lacks the power to authorize lawsuits against nonconsenting states and that Texas has sovereign immunity against such suits. The Supreme Court of the United States has granted review of this case. Oral argument will be heard this spring, and a decision is expected to be rendered no later than June 30, 2022. 

Congressman Castro’s brief supports Captain Torres’s argument that USERRA provides a valid cause of action against nonconsenting states under the War Powers granted to Congress in the Constitution. Specifically, the brief argues that ensuring returning servicemembers have access to uniform workplace remedies — no matter where they live — strengthens American war-readiness and repays our immense debt to veterans for their sacrifice in service of the United States. To view the full brief and list of Congressional signers, click here.