Veteran With Iraq War Injuries Awarded $2.5 Million in Re-employment Lawsuit

On September 29, 2023, a Nueces County Texas jury awarded retired Capt. LeRoy Torres $2.49 million, finding that the Texas Department of Public Safety discriminated against him by refusing to allow him reasonable accommodations when he came back to work with a service-related injury from the Iraq war. The decision was hailed as “a huge win for veterans with service-related disabilities.” This was not an easy victory. Capt. Torres’ battle against employment discrimination took him 11 years and a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court – ten years longer than his honorable service in Iraq. Employment discrimination against veterans remains an unfortunate reality.

Are You Having Problems With Employment Discrimination?

Kilgore lawyers will stand by you and protect your employment rights. We are veterans too. Veterans, reservists, and regular workers now have a broad range of legal employment protections when it comes to employment rights. But some do not know about the employment discrimination features of Texas and federal law. To learn more about our legal representation, click here Servicemember Rights. Click here to learn more about Employment Discrimination. To read an article on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, click here USERRA. To get the conversation started about your legal rights, click this link Contact Kilgore Law and submit your contact information so we can answer your questions.

Military Deployment – The Cost of Honorable Service

Capt. Leroy Torres enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1989. In 1998, he was employed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) as a Texas State Trooper. He worked as a trooper until 2007 when his reserve unit was deployed to Iraq. Torres spent his deployment at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, where the toxic fumes from ten acres of burn pits filled the air. His barracks were within a mile of the burn pits.

In the burn pits, everything that was no longer needed was doused with jet fuel and burned. This included amputated body parts, arms, and legs left behind. Aircraft engines, computers, and tires were burned there. Torres and those with whom he served had no choice but to breathe the air. Even before Capt. Leroy Torres left Iraq, he began having severe headaches. He was honorably medically discharged in 2008. He came back with a diagnosis of constrictive bronchitis, a respiratory condition that narrowed his airways and made breathing difficult. Once home, Torres began having chest pains and other symptoms.

Re-employment with the Texas Department of Public Service (DPS)

Nonetheless, Capt. Torres sought re-employment with the DPS. It was a job he felt called to do. At trial, he testified that “Servicing [sic] as a trooper wasn’t just a job that I would just go to earn a paycheck. It’s just like the military. Something I lived by.” DPS only made an offer of temporary duty, which he declined. He sued DPS in 2017, alleging that the agency’s failure to offer him a job that would accommodate his progressing disability violated USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994), which offers re-employment and prohibits adverse employment actions against an employee with a military service history. The trial court ruled in his favor, but on appeal, the appellate court reversed that decision, finding that, because the DPS is an agency of the state of Texas, it was immune from civilian lawsuits. That decision sparked the public’s collective conscience. Military service was the code by which Capt. LeRoy Torres lived. It is the code which many veterans live by. It is one of the reasons so many veterans find themselves in law enforcement and other public service jobs.

U.S. Supreme Court Rights the Wrong of Employment Discrimination Against Veterans

Capt. LeRoy Torres sought to have the decision reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Torres did have standing to sue the DPS. It then remanded this discrimination lawsuit back to Texas state court for a decision consistent with its holding. This was a decision that Kilgore Law covered at length in our September 2022 blog post. That brings us to where we are today and the 2023 decision by the Nueces County jury.

Much has happened in the meantime, on both on the legal and personal front for servicemembers who, like Capt. LeRoy Torres, were exposed to the poisonous fumes from burn pits. Capt. LeRoy Torres has since been diagnosed with terminal lung disease, toxic brain injury, and autoimmune issues. The jury’s award has not come too soon and will certainly be useful for his future as a wounded warrior.

USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994) and Disability Benefits

If a veteran has a disability incurred in or aggravated by his or her service, an employer (now including Texas state agencies) must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and return the veteran to the position in which he or she would have been employed but for the military service. If the wounded warrior is not qualified for that position due to disability, USERRA also requires the employer to make reasonable efforts to help qualify the veteran for a job of equivalent seniority, status, duties, and pay, which he or she is qualified to perform or could become qualified to perform. This could include training or retraining for the position. These were the benefits that Capt. LeRoy Torres sought.

Employment Discrimination Rules in Other Federal and State Laws

Capt. LeRoy Torres sued the DPS specifically under the provisions of USERRA, but there are other federal and state laws that work together to protect the employment rights of wounded warriors. These employment rights are included in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the PACT Act, and provisions of the Texas Government Code.

Benefits Under the PACT Act1

The lifelong injuries caused by bullets, bombs, and combat are easy to recognize. Invisible war injuries, like a toxic brain injury or constrictive bronchitis, are harder to spot and their effects may not appear for years. The PACT Act expands and adds benefits for veterans, including:

  • Eligibility for VA medical benefits for veterans with toxic exposures and veterans of the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and post-9/11 eras;
  • A list of more than 20 new presumptive conditions for burn pit and other toxic exposures; and
  • Required Veterans Administration screening for toxic exposure for every veteran enrolled in VA health care.

The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act)

The federal ADA prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. With respect to employment, the law protects the rights of both employees and applicants.

Employment Discrimination Laws in the Texas Government Code

The Texas Government Code provides that members of the Texas National Guard and other state military forces who are called to active state duty by the governor are entitled to the same benefits and protections as USERRA (Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994).

Employment Discrimination is Illegal

Are you having problems with employment discrimination or re-employment discrimination? Our employment lawyers follow legal developments closely and are experienced with getting the damages to which our clients are entitled. To get the conversation started about your legal rights, click this link Contact Kilgore Law.


(1) PACT ACT: Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act

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