USERRA: your right to return to work after military service
For members of the military being called to duty or being deployed can be hard on families, friends, and the individual who is serving. Service members may face life-threatening situations abroad and when they return home the transition back to civilian life can be difficult. The last thing that a service member should have to worry about upon returning home is losing his/her job. That is where the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) comes into play. USERRA is a federal law that protects the employment rights of military members who are called upon to leave their civilian jobs in service to the country. Here is a quick overview of USERRA and how it protects the job rights of military members:
USERRA ensures that you have the right to be reemployed upon returning from military service if:
- You give your employer advanced notice of your service
- You return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after returning form your service
- You have not been separated from the military with less than an honorable discharge or other non-qualifying condition
- Your time away from work is less than five years
Upon your reemployment you have the right to be placed back into the same position with all of the benefits that you would have obtained had you not been sent to serve. If your position is no longer available your employer must place you in a comparable position.
Protection from discrimination and retaliation
If you are a past or present member of the military, have applied for the military or are obligated to serve in the military then your employer may not deprive you of any of the following due to your relationship with the military:
- Initial employment
- Retention in your employment
- Promotion; or
- Any benefit of employment
Additionally an employer may not retaliate against anyone who has exercised their USERRA rights or even anyone who has assisted in the exercise of USERRA rights.
Health insurance protection
- While away from your job and performing military service you and your covered dependents are entitled to continue your employer based health care coverage for up to 24 months
- If you do not elect to continue your employer based health coverage you are entitled to have it reinstated upon your return
USERRA is a federal law that protects the employment and job rights of military members who leave their civilian jobs to perform military service. It allows for the service member to return to his previous job without fear of discrimination or retaliation. It also protects military members during the application process and preserves their employer based health care rights. This law is especially relevant to those in the Reserves or National Guard who balance a civilian life with their military service.
Being deployed on military service can be difficult enough. If you think your job rights have been violated while performing military service do some research on USERRA and contact a local attorney to ensure you are treated fairly and your rights are fully protected.
 United States Department of Labor – Poster, Your Rights Under USERRA, United States Department of Labor – Veterans Employment and Training Service (2008), http://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf