THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ROANOKE COUNTY David B. Carson, Judge
PRESENT: Lemons, C.J., Goodwyn, Mims, McClanahan, Powell, and
Kelsey, JJ., and Russell, S.J.
WILLIAM C. MIMS JUSTICE.
appeal, we consider the circumstances under which the
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of
1994, 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-4333 ("USERRA"),
provides for a two-year convalescence period. We also
consider whether 38 U.S.C. §§ 4312 and 4313 apply
to claims based on an employer's conduct after
BACKGROUND AND MATERIAL PROCEEDINGS BELOW
Ennis Huff ("Huff") was initially hired by the
Roanoke County Sheriff's Office (the "Sheriff")
in November 2001 as a Deputy Sheriff. At the time, she was
also a member of the United States Army Reserve.
December 2009, Huff was serving as a Deputy Sheriff Bailiff
when she was called to active duty and deployed to
Afghanistan. During her tour of duty,
Huff suffered a broken nose, injuries to her hip and spine,
and a concussion, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
In April 2011, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder ("PTSD") and major depressive disorder.
returned from Afghanistan in May 2011, and she was discharged
from active duty shortly thereafter. Upon her return, she
contacted the Sheriff regarding reemployment. In July 2011,
the Sheriff rehired Huff as a Deputy Sheriff Bailiff.
treatment at the Salem VA Medical Center, Huff continued to
suffer from PTSD and depression-related symptoms during her
employment. After certain incidents came to the Sheriff's
attention, Huff was twice required to undergo "Fitness
for Duty Evaluations." The Sheriff deemed Huff fit for
duty on both occasions.
August 2011, Huff requested unpaid leave on Fridays due to
ongoing counseling sessions that were scheduled for Thursday
evenings. The Sheriff advised her that he could not provide
leave on every Friday if she remained in the court services
division. Instead, he offered to transfer her from court
services to corrections to provide the office with greater
scheduling flexibility. Huff considered the transfer a
demotion, and declined to accept it. The Sheriff then
indicated that she could take up to thirty days unpaid
administrative leave to seek counseling and treatment.
Beginning in late November 2011, Huff took thirty days leave
pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
her return, Huff was authorized by her treating physician to
work on a full-time, "light duty" basis through
April 1, 2012. She began working in this capacity, and later
submitted a request to remain on full-time, light duty
through June 2012. However, in March 2012, Huff suffered a
heart attack, which was deemed "service related" by
her treating physician. After her heart attack, Huff went on
physician subsequently cleared her to return to work on a
part-time, "full duty" basis from October 22, 2012
to January 21, 2013. Three days later, the Sheriff terminated
her employment due to her inability to return to work in a
filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Roanoke County,
asserting four counts against the Sheriff. In relevant part,
the complaint alleged that (1) the Sheriff failed to properly
reemploy Huff and failed to make reasonable efforts to
accommodate her disability in violation of 38 U.S.C. §
4313, and (2) the Sheriff was required to allow Huff a
two-year convalescence period before terminating her
employment pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 4312.
parties submitted competing motions for summary judgment on
the above counts. Relying on Francis v. Booz, Allen &
Hamilton, Inc., 452 F.3d 299 (4th Cir. 2006), the
circuit court ruled that Sections 4312 and 4313 apply only
until the moment of reemployment. Because the Sheriff rehired
Huff in the same position that she had left during her
deployment, the circuit court found these provisions were
inapplicable to her claims. Accordingly, the court granted
the Sheriff's motion for summary judgment.
case proceeded to trial on the two remaining
counts. After Huff presented her
evidence, the court granted the Sheriff's motion to
strike the first count, while taking the Sheriff's motion
to strike the remaining count under advisement. After the
Sheriff presented his case, the jury returned a defense
verdict on the remaining count.
appeals only the circuit court's decision to grant the
Sheriff's motion for summary judgment.
Standard of Review
an appeal from a circuit court's decision to grant or
deny summary judgment, this Court reviews the application of
law to undisputed facts de novo." St. Joe Co. v.
Norfolk Redev. & Hous. Auth., 283 Va. 403, 407, 722
S.E.2d 622, 625 (2012). This appeal also presents questions
of statutory interpretation, which the Court reviews de novo.