“To me the statistics are very, very convincing,” Ms. Piscitelli said.
According to the proposed settlement, L3 disagreed with the plaintiffs’ analysis on methodological grounds, such as which applicants should have been classified as reservists, and said the gap in hiring was attributable to other factors, like disparities in experience.
The case shines a light on two related trends that followed the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The first is the military’s increased reliance on reservists to meet the rising demand for personnel. The second is discrimination against those workers by employers either unaware of or unmoved by the law’s requirements.
“In the wake of 9/11, employers have experienced disruptions due to the amazing rate of call-ups of people — their employees,” Ms. Piscitelli said. Many employers dislike the law at issue, she said, and “there is widespread discrimination.”
Although the military has relied on contractors for decades, its needs since 2001 have also made it far more reliant on personnel provided by companies like L3, said Nora Bensahel, a visiting professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“Once you’re fighting two wars, the volume of work goes up,” Ms. Bensahel said. “There is more pressure to have as many of the people in uniform as possible doing combat-related things, and contract out all of the other things.”
But even though this shift has benefited their bottom lines, contractors are often no less likely to discriminate against reservists than employers in other industries, said one of Mr. Kay’s lawyers, Matthew Crotty. In certain respects, he said, they may be even more hostile to these workers.
Mr. Crotty has litigated several cases against defense companies in recent years, including one involving a certified medical assistant who worked for a contractor at a Navy medical facility. The assistant asserted that she had been fired for taking too much leave to fulfill her Navy Reserve obligations. That case was settled in 2017.