Supreme Court says states can be sued for alleged discriminating against military veterans

The man argued Texas violated federal law by not giving him a new job upon his return from military service

Updated: June 29, 2022 - 1:16pm

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A Supreme Court said Wednesday state agencies are not immune from private lawsuits under a federal law meant to protect employment rights of returning veterans.

The ruling centered on veteran Le Roy Torres having suffered lung damage during his military service in Iraq. Upon returning to Texas after being medically discharged, Torres was unable to return to his job as a state trooper as a result of his injuries.

When the state did not give him a new job, he resigned and sued. 

On Wednesday, the high court, in 5-4 decision, rejected Texas’ argument that it is shielded from such lawsuits.

"Text, history, and precedent show that the States, in coming together to form a Union, agreed to sacrifice their sovereign immunity for the good of the common defense,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court, according to the Associated Press.

The court's three liberal-leaning justices were joined in the majority opinion by conservative-leaning Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts.

In 1994 Congress passed legislation protecting the jobs of  service members upon their return. Torres sued the state of Texas for violating his rights under his act

The Supreme Court will release the final two decisions of the term tomorrow morning starting at 10 AM. 

Justice Clarence Thomas was joined by the court's three other conservative-leaning justices in the dissenting opinion.

Thomas argued, "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."

Article I refers to the part of the Constitution that spells out Congress’ power.