The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal regulation that protects the employment rights of current and former members of the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard and similar services. Enacted in 1994, USERRA establishes guidelines that employers must follow in regard to the employment, reemployment, retention and benefits of uniformed service members. The Act is intended to minimize the disadvantages that might otherwise be experienced by an individual who needs to be absent from his or her civilian employment to serve in the armed forces.
If you are a uniformed service member and feel that your employment or reemployment rights have been violated, or that you're facing military discrimination, fill out our free case evaluation form today.
Defining a Uniformed Service Member
Under USERRA, a uniformed service member is anyone who performs duties, voluntarily or involuntarily, in military services such as:
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- Marine Corps
- Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
- Reserve components of any of the above services
- Air National Guard or Army National Guard (Individuals who are training or serving)
The USERRA states that employees in the above services have the right to fairness in their civilian careers, prompt reinstatement of their former position, and freedom from discrimination based on military service.
Employer Responsibilities Under the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act
Regardless of size, all public and private U.S. employers must follow the regulations set forth by USERRA. If the individual meets the requirements of a uniformed service member, USERRA mandates that the employer offers the following:
Reinstatement of healthcare: Individuals on military leave must be offered the same benefits as those on other types of leave.
Protection from discharge: Once reemployed, service members cannot be fired without just cause (also known as wrongful discharge). The length of this protection is based on the amount of time spent in the uniformed services. Individuals who completed 181 or more days of military service cannot be fired without cause for one year after reemployment. Employees who completed 30 to 180 days of service have six months of protection from discharge without cause. No discharge protection is offered to those who served 30 days or less.
Freedom from discrimination: Employers cannot discriminate against current or former military personnel in regard to hiring, firing, reemployment, promotion and benefits. Additionally, employers cannot retaliate against individuals who exercise their rights under USERRA.
Additional rights employers must offer current and former service members include:
- The ability to participate in military service
- Timely reemployment after the military service
- Accumulation of seniority, including pension plan benefits
- Training and retraining (includes accommodations for disabled individuals)
Eligibility for Reemployment Under the USERRA
Generally, if a worker leaves his or her job to join the military service, they are eligible for employment under USERRA as long as:
- The employer had adequate notice of the individual's decision to join the services
- The employee returns to the job in compliance with USERRA guidelines
- The employee did not leave the service because of a disqualifying discharge (i.e. the individual was separated from the service because of bad conduct)
In addition to meeting the above requirements, the employee must return to work within a certain period of time. If the worker completed one to 30 days of service, they must report to their employer on the next scheduled work day. This guideline offers eight hours rest for these employees and considers travel time from the military site to place of employment. Workers performing 31 to 180 days of service must apply for reemployment within 14 days following completion of service. Those serving 181 days or more have 90 days to reapply.
For veterans unsure of the eligibility requirements and potential benefits under the Act, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has created an “elaws” USERRA Advisor to guide them through the most important requirements.
What if my employer doesn't follow the law?
As a military service member, you have rights in regard to your employment and reemployment. If you feel these rights have been violated, contact our USERRA attorneys today by filling out our free, no-obligation consultation form. Employees treated improperly under USERRA may be able to receive injunctive relief (require employer to comply with USERRA), compensation for lost wages or benefits due to the violation, and even possible additional damages if the violation of the Act was willful. A military discrimination lawyer may be the key to getting the compensation you're owed.