Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Welcome
Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Texas Loses High Court Clash on Veteran Discrimination Suits (1)

June 29, 2022, 2:14 PMUpdated: June 29, 2022, 4:13 PM

The federal government’s “war powers” are broad enough to include the ability to force states to defend themselves in employment discrimination suits filed by service members, the US Supreme Court said.

Writing for a 5-4 court on Wednesday, Justice Stephen Breyer said the government’s interest in ensuring that it can raise an army means states aren’t immune from suits by veterans claiming they were discriminated against because of a service-related disability.

“Upon entering the Union, the States implicitly agreed that their sovereignty would yield to federal policy to build and keep a national military,” Breyer wrote for the majority, which included the court’s two other liberals as well as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas said, “constitutional text, history, and precedent all show that when the States ratified the Constitution, they did not implicitly consent to private damages actions filed in their own courts — whether authorized by Congress’ war powers or any other Article I power.”

The decision means Army veteran and former state trooper Leroy Torres can continue his case against the Texas Department of Public Safety. Torres says the state agency violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act when it denied him a an accommodation for lung damage he suffered from burn pits in Iraq.

More than 10% of veterans work for state and local governments, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2021.

The case is Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S., No. 20-603.

(Updates with additional detail from opinions.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com