What Employment Protection does USERRA Provide Veterans and Service Members and Who Qualifies?
Service members and veterans give us the freedom and security that we enjoy in this country every day. So what protections do our laws provide these individuals when it comes to their civilian jobs?
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, or USERRA, is a federal law that protects service members’ and veterans’ civilian employment rights. USERRA requires employers to put individuals back to work in their civilian jobs after military service. USERRA also protects service members from discrimination in the workplace based on their military service or affiliation.
The law ensures that service members: are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their military service; are promptly re-employed in their civilian jobs upon return from duty; are not discriminated against by employers because of past, present, or future military service. USERRA affords these same protections to members of Reserve components. USERRA applies to both public and private employers.
To qualify for USERRA, a service member must:
- have left a civilian job.
- must have given proper notice to the employer that he or she was leaving to perform military service.
- the military service cannot exceed 5 years (with some limited exceptions).
- the service member must have had an honorable discharge.
- the service member must have reported back to work within the time permitted by the law.
JOB REMPLOYMENT PROTECTIONS
If a service member qualifies for USERRA, here is a non-exhaustive list of the major protections provided by the law for job reinstatement:
- USERRA requires that returning service-members are reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service.
- The service member retains the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority.
- The employer makes reasonable efforts effort to assist returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment. This includes, but is not limited to, training or retraining members after they come back from service.
- The service member is entitled to immediate reinstatement of health insurance for the member and previously covered dependents, without any waiting period and no exclusion of preexisting conditions (other than those that are military service-related).
- If a service member becomes disabled because of military service, the employer must reemploy the service member in a position most similar to their former position – if they can no longer perform that position.
PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION
If you’re a current or former member of the uniformed service; have applied for membership; or are required to serve; then employers may not use any of these facts as a reason to deny the service member from:
- initial employment;
- retention in employment;
- promotion; or
- any benefit of employment because of this status.
Taking adverse employment actions (termination, demotion, cut in pay, etc.) against a service member on the basis of membership in the uniformed services or need for leave to serve is unlawful. In addition, employers are prohibited from retaliating against anyone assisting in the enforcement of USERRA rights, including testifying or making a statement in connection with a proceeding under USERRA, even if that person has no service connection.
We need to protect the rights of service members and veterans. They fight for us every day. We are happy to fight for them. If you or someone you know is not being discriminated against because of your military status, being retaliated against for applying for or taking military leave, or not being afforded the rights to reemployment, contact your Ohio USERRA attorneys today.
Employment Law – For The Employee