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Current data and litigation trends suggest service members and employers alike are not fully aware of their rights and legal obligations under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This law gives certain job protections to service members, aiming to minimize the potential disadvantages to an individual that can occur when that person is absent from civilian employment to serve in the country’s uniformed services.
USERRA applies to virtually all employers and provides for severe punishment of both companies and individuals for violations, including discrimination against employees or applicants because of military service. While USERRA is of utmost importance for all service members, it is especially important for those service members who are currently mobilized or have been demobilized, and for service members serving in the Reserves or the National Guard—even if they have not been mobilized.
USERRA generates a great deal of interest from many sectors, but especially from service members and their families. If you serve in the Reserves or the National Guard, here is an outline of what you need to know about USERRA.
- Prohibits illegal discrimination against members of the uniformed services.
- Requires prompt reemployment, not at your job prior to mobilization but at the job and in the position you would have been at had you not been mobilized (this is known as the "escalator position").
- Provides for credit for mobilized time for seniority, retirement, rate of pay, and pension and retirement contributions.
- Provides for health care benefits.
- Provides for protection from discharge after return from military service, specifying the length of this protection as well as when the protection begins and ends. (This issue is especially critical because the USERRA clock does not start to run until an employer has satisfied all USERRA requirements, and it can be challenging for both service members (employees) and employers to know when that occurs.)
- Provides for both corporate and individual supervisor liability for violations of USERRA.
- Provides for protection from discharge in hiring, promotion, and retention on the basis of present or future membership in the uniformed services.
In addition, the Department of Labor has developed a helpful set of questions and answers describing how USERRA works, and the Department of Justice provides information about USERRA at www.servicemembers.gov.