The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law that protects the employment rights of past, present, and future servicemembers. Specifically, the law protects veterans, current memebers, applicants, and trainees by establishing a right of reemployment and prohibiting discrimination in certain terms of employment.
USERRA is applicable to all U.S. employers. This means that no employer may deny a qualifying servicemember the right to reemployment or discriminate against them in any term of employment. Furthermore, employers must provide a notice of rights to all employees protected under the law. This can be done by posting the Department of Labor’s USERRA poster entitled "Your Rights Under USERRA" in a place where employee notices are typically posted, or by mailing/emailing the notice to employees.
Who Qualifies for Protection
Individuals who perform duties for any “uniformed service” are protected under the law. Uniformed service includes the:
- Marine Corps.
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- Commissioned corps. of the Public Health Service
- Army National Guard Trainees
- Air National Guard Trainees
- Disaster response workers who perform duties pursuant to the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act
- National Guard members who perform funeral ceremonies
- Reserves who perform funeral ceremonies
Five Things To Know About USERRA
Time Frame For Applying
If you missed less than 31 days, you must return to the job on the first day of the next regularly scheduled work period after returning from military service. No application is required---you simply return to the job.
If you missed 31-180 days, you must apply for reemployment within 14 days of returning from service.
If you missed 181 days or more, you must apply for reemployment within 90 days of returning from service.
* In cases where the individual is hospitalized due to injuries incurred or aggravated during service, these deadlines may be extended for up to 2 years.
What is Covered
If you are a qualifying servicemember as defined by statue, then you have the right to be reemployed in any full or part-time pre-service position you left due to military service. The right is triggered when the following criteria are met:
- You were absent from employment due to your military service.
- You gave your employer advance notice of your upcoming service.
- You have 5 years or less of cumulative service with the employer. This means the right is only triggered if you left the employer to enter military service for a period of 5 years or less. You have no right to be reemployed if your service was for a lengthy period of time (more than 5 years).
- You were honorably discharged or released from service.
- You return to work or apply for reemployment within the time frame specified in the statue (see box to the right).
Discrimination in Employment
U.S. employers are prohibited from discriminating against qualifying servicemembers with regard to any term of employment including hiring, retention, reemployment, wages, benefits, promotions, or seniority due to their service status.
How to Get Help
If you believe your employer has violated USERRA, you may either file a formal complaint with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS), or file a civil suit against the employer for violating USERRA.
Filing a complaint with VETS
If you file a complaint with VETS, the department will conduct an investigation to help you resolve the dispute. If no resolution is reached, or if you are unhappy with the resolution, you may request to have the complaint referred to the Department of Justice or Office of Special Counsel.
Filing a civil suit
Alternatively, you may file a civil suit against the employer for violating USERRA. This will require hiring an attorney who handles USERRA cases. If the court finds that the employer violated USERRA, it may order the employer to pay your lost wages and benefits. In some cases, the court may even award liquidated damages.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.