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What You Should Know About USERRA Regulations

What You Should Know About USERRA Regulations

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What You Should Know About USERRA Regulations

When you commit your dedication to your country by enlisting in the Armed Forces, you also agree to uproot your life at a moment's notice. This makes everyday life exceedingly difficult for those who have to leave their regular jobs and families to serve when their nation calls upon them. 

Fortunately, those who are faced with leaving their employment for short or ongoing deployments receive special protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Read on to learn how USERRA can afford you certain rights regarding your healthcare and employment obligations. 

What Is USERRA?

USERRA is a federal statute enacted by Congress to support non-career service members and recognizes the unique challenges they face compared to those serving full-time. This law provides three protections for uniformed members in three primary ways:

  1. Ensures the affected service member can gain re-employment in their previous or similar job role when they are finished with active duty periods.
  2. Protects veterans from being discriminated against by employers and protects them from employer retaliation because of their status as service members.
  3. Provides rights to healthcare for a limited period while serving.

To better understand how the USERRA applies to your situation as a non-career military member, consult with an experienced veteran attorney like those at Morgan and Morgan. The initial consultation is free, and we can assess your current challenge that may be affected by this Act.

Which Employers Must Comply with USERRA? 

In general, USERRA covers most employers as defined by the Act as an individual or organization that pays wages or salary to those who perform work for them or have control over employment matters. This definition applies to both the private and public sectors and government agencies on all levels. Further, it doesn't matter if the company in question only has two or two thousand workers, and the amount of revenue earned by the employer doesn't affect compliance requirements either.  

What Employees Receive USERRA Protection?

Currently, USERRA provides its protections for those in the uniformed services, which include:

  • Armed Forces
  • Army National Guard
  • Air National Guard (when training or on full-time duty)

It should be noted that USERRA doesn't have authority over National Guard services ordered by their states, though additional protections exist for service members in this situation. 

Additionally, this Act covers those who are part of the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System and other related service categories during national emergencies designated by the President of the United States (POTUS). This means if you are part of your state's National Guard and are called to assist FEMA after a major disaster like a Gulf Coast hurricane event, you are covered. 

How Does USERRA Specifically Protect My Employment?

One of the primary functions of USERRA is to ensure that you can regain your employment once you return from your service duty obligations that took you away. To qualify, the following conditions must be met:

  • You had or were in the process of being hired for a civilian job, and,
  • You gave your employer written or verbal notice about your departure for required military activities if possible, and,
  • You haven't exceeded the five-year cumulative limit of service time, and,
  • You didn't receive a dishonorable discharge, and,
  • You are reporting back to your previous employer in a timely manner or ensuring your application for re-employment is expedited. 

Satisfying these conditions will entitle you to be reinstated to a former job with the same level of seniority and terms you were hired under before leaving to fulfill your service duties. If your previous position isn't available any longer, your employer has to offer you a similar role.

What is the USERRA Health Insurance Guarantee?

Another crucial feature of USERRA is its guarantee that eligible service members and their families will continue receiving their health insurance coverage. This guarantee can last up to 24 months while the covered employee is serving their country. If you should decide you don't want to continue enrollment in your employer-provided healthcare policy, you have the option of re-enrolling later. Further, the predetermined open enrollment period often won't apply to your situation nor the exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

How USERRA Protects You From Employment Discrimination and Retaliation

The final protection that USERRA provides its uniformed service members is relief from employment discrimination and retaliation. This is a crucial piece of this Act because returning military veterans who may be redeployed later often face a hard time finding a civilian job because of this fact. 

Specifically, when seeking work or if you're currently employed and are a non-career service member, you are protected against the following:

  • Hiring discrimination
  • Re-employment denial
  • Adverse promotion/wage increase decisions
  • Employment benefit discrimination

When referring to employment benefits, you should understand this covers everything from profits to status and even your interests in the company you work for. Much like other workplace anti-discrimination laws, USERRA makes it illegal for your boss to retaliate against you when enforcing your protections under this Act or assist others trying to exercise these rights. This includes testifying at hearings or participating in an investigation of your employer's compliance with this law. 

What if My USERRA Rights Were Violated? 

When an employer doesn't comply with the requirements set forth for USERRA-covered military employees, violations can be severe. Right off the bat, this Act allows judges a broader authority in forcing companies to comply. This means requiring reinstatement for the protected employee in question, including, but not limited to:

  • Holding employers in contempt
  • Issuing restraining orders 
  • Granting injunctions for relief
  • Awarding monetary compensation

When employers don't do the right thing and allow their service member worker to return to work, they will also be liable for lost wages and benefits they would have received. Also, intentionally violating USERRA can also lead to an award of liquidated damages equal to that lost income. Finally, when you win your case against your employer for violating your protections under the law, your attorney will be required to pay for the legal costs associated with your action. 

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FAQ

USERRA Regulations FAQs

  • What if My Employer Won't Comply with the USERRA?

    You are guaranteed certain rights regarding your civilian job when you are an enlisted military member. When your employer violates these rights, you need to contact the knowledgeable USERRA attorneys of Morgan and Morgan right away. We can help you seek injunctive relief, including any lost income or benefits because of their violation. We will also determine if it's possible to obtain additional punitive damages for their noncompliance. 

  • How Do I File a USERRA Complaint?

    The U.S. The Department of Labor (DOL)makes it possible for you to pursue an administrative solution for your case when your employer refuses to reinstate your job or force you to take one that is not comparable in nature. However, to obtain relief, you will need to work with the seasoned USERRA attorneys of Morgan and Morgan to file your complaint with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS). 

    Once filed, VETS will investigate your claim and attempt to resolve your case. If this isn't successful, you can escalate your matter to the DOL. If you opt not to go that route or if the DOL declines your case, you still go to federal court and file directly from there. 

  • What if I Became Disabled While Out On Military Leave?

    USERRA demands that public and private sector employers accommodate employees who have sustained serious injuries or a disability. This includes aggravation of a pre-existing impairment while their military employee serves their country. When returning from your service, your boss needs to take steps to help you come back to work if you are able and willing.

    In situations where your disablement is not easily accommodated, you must be reemployed in a position that at least provides your previous income, status, and seniority. 

    If you don't qualify for legal action under the USERRA, don't lose hope and speak with the knowledgeable veterans' disability attorneys of Morgan and Morgan. We can provide superior advocacy for your needs by leveraging other federal protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

  • How Can Morgan and Morgan Help Me with My USERRA Suit?

    Our team of attorneys has decades of experience in matters involving the military and labor law. Our dedication to our service members has helped us successfully pursue thousands of employment disputes with employers that wouldn't comply with the USERRA. 

    Besides this impressive track record, our aggressive labor attorneys regularly represent workers in matters that involve:

    • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
    • Department of Labor (DOL)
    • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
    • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

    Don't allow your employer to mistreat you compared to your coworkers because of your military service demands. Don't hesitate to contact us right away to discuss your USERRA issue and learn more about your available legal options. 

  • What Is Considered Employer Retaliation?

    Under multiple federal and state statutes, companies that punish employees that take lawful action against them are guilty of retaliation. Unfortunately, even though your right to file a complaint is protected under the law, it won't stop employers from punishing you for your actions.

    Some examples of retaliation include: 

    • Reducing the worker's salary
    • Demoting the worker
    • Re-assigning the worker to a less-desirable job
    • Re-assigning the worker to a shift that creates a work-family conflict
    • Excluding the worker from essential workplace activities such as training sessions
  • My Employer Let Me Go Despite USERRA Protections. Now What?

    Convinced your employer laid you off for unfair or illegal reasons? This type of termination could be considered wrongful under the following conditions:

    • Refusing to accommodate your disability from military service
    • Passing you over for another candidate because of your service obligations
    • Firing you out of retaliation for filing a USERRA complaint
    • Discriminating against you in regards to raises, promotions, and other benefits 
    • Terminating you for being a whistleblower
    • Laying you off because you won't do something illegal 

    If you recently lost your job without proper cause, reach out to the reputable labor and employment attorneys at Morgan and Morgan today. You don't have to shoulder the loss of income and hard-earned benefits on your own. Trust us to help you get compensated. 

  • Fight Employment Discrimination Toward Service Members with a USERRA Attorney

    You have an unwavering dedication to your country and military service. However, when you are a non-career service member, this creates a unique set of challenges that requires your employer to be flexible and accommodating. Under federal law, they owe you the opportunity to come back to your old position, or one that is comparative in value, when you've completed duty obligations by your branch of service. Failing to do this is in direct violation of USERRA protections and demands they are held accountable. 

    At Morgan and Morgan, our team of aggressive employment and labors lawyers is here to help you put a stop to employment discrimination and retaliation. We will ensure you get the wages and benefits you've lost because you were passed over for promotions or lost your job because your employer didn't want to accommodate your needs. We are your best advocate and resource to bring this type of case to court successfully.

    With over $9 billion in settlements and verdict awards, our firm has proven our dedication to maximizing compensation for our clients and getting them the justice they deserve. When you want the best attorneys for your USERRA action, just reach out to Morgan & Morgan. Please fill out our brief contact form to find out more about our free consultation offer. 

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