One of the little nuggets emerging from the Trump University fraud trial is the way Trump University abused US military veterans. As filings have become public it is clear that Trump University viewed the federal law protecting veterans, particular Reservists and Guardsmen who are called to active duty, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), as irrelevant.
The key thing USERRA does is that it gives a Reservist or Guardsman the right to return to their old job with the days missed due to deployment considered as days worked for purposes of seniority, promotion, etc. And days spent at drill or deployed cannot be counted against vacation time. Some employers don’t like it, but without USERRA it would be very difficult to retain a Reserve Component as training or duty absences could result in loss of employment.
Here are two particular cases.
Senior Master Sergeant Richard Wright was an employee of the “Trump Institute.” Trump fans have claimed that Trump Institute has nothing to do with Trump University. But Trump licensed his name to these grifters who gave real estate seminars and they shared, in many cases, space and staff with the grifters in Trump University. He was called up for active duty in 2007 and was deployed to Afghanistan for six weeks. When he returned he asked his boss for two “personal days” to unpack and catch his breath. He was told that not only was he not entitled personal days but that his deployment was counted as an “absence” and, oh, by the way, his clients had been given to other staff while he was gone. When he objected he was fired. Wright sued under USERRA and reached a settlement that, unfortunately, included a nondisclosure agreement.
Corinne Sommers, an Iraq War vet, went to work for Trump University in 2012. At the time she still had a Reserve obligation that amounted to two days each month. She worked in events management for Trump University and asked to be allowed to perform her drill days during the week rather than on the weekends when she would be working. The answer she got was “no.” She received a poor performance review that called her a “weekend warrior” and blamed her military duties for her performance. Ultimately, she was fired. Like Wright, she sued and reached a settlement that came with a nondisclosure agreement.
For all of his talk about being concerned about veterans, Trump’s behavior indicates just the opposite. He was obviously not going to make good on his pledge to donate the money raised in his January veterans fundraiser until the Washington Post started asking questions. His organization routinely ignored USERRA and fired Reservists because of a perceived conflict between their duties and work. We can bet that there are more of these the settlements, like those of Wright and Sommers, kicking around out there in the Democrats opposition research bins and the attack ads are being filmed as we speak.