The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a key piece of employment legislature that Congress passed to protect the jobs of civilians called to active military duty.
What is the History of USERRA?
The legislative concept of USERRA has a history that dates back from World War II and even the Civil War. The most recent change was the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights Act (VRRA) of 1968, which protected reserve military members from reemployment discrimination. USERRA was passed in 1994 and expanded the protections of the VRRA. It applies to all the uniformed services: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
What is the Main Purpose of USERRA?
According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the main purpose of USERRA is to protect reemployment rights for active and reserve military members who are called to active duty. Therefore, the main purpose is to eliminate employment discrimination because of military service. USERRA details benefit rights, enforcement mechanisms and requires businesses to make reasonable efforts to accommodate a returning veteran with a disability.
Who is Eligible for Coverage under USERRA?
USERRA guarantees reemployment for military members for five years. This means that an employee who is called to active duty for under five years must be rehired. However, there are deadline exceptions. For instance, active duty recalls, reserve training duty and tour extensions all extend the USERRA time frame. In fact, the USERRA legislation clearly states that the reemployment protection is not limited to time, duration or frequency of military service.
What are the Employer Responsibilities?
All employers in the United States must maintain compliance with USERRA. This includes government employees, members of foreign companies and even American employers in foreign countries. All eligible military members must be reemployed in the same or similar job as when they originally left. Employers must make reasonable efforts, such as retraining, in order to help the returning veteran adapt to their new position. Simply put, the USERRA is similar to FMLA or workers’ compensation legislation because it doesn’t guarantee the same job, but it guarantees a job with similar pay, status, rights and benefits. In addition to this, there are strict recordkeeping requirements. Employers must post the Department of Labor’s official USERRA notification in an area noticeable to employees, which is generally the lunch room.
What are the Employee Responsibilities?
USERRA sets five time limit categories for military members applying for reemployment. First, returning vets with less than 31 days service must apply for reemployment at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled work period. In other words, they must reapply for work as soon as possible. Second, returning vets who have been away for 31 to 180 days must apply for reemployment no later than 14 days after they completed military service. Third, returning vets who have been absent over 181 days must apply for reemployment no later than 90 days after finishing military service. Fourth, returning vets who have suffered an injury or illness have up to two years to reapply for employment.
To sum up, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is an important piece of anti-discrimination legislature that protects returning military members through requiring companies to rehire them for the same or similar job.