The United States government has enacted several laws that apply only to those in the military. These laws give special rights and considerations to those who serve their country, usually during periods of active duty and deployment. Some federal acts exempt servicemembers from certain laws. Others federal acts deal with discrimination.
Servicemembers Can Keep Their Civilian Jobs
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) guarantees military personnel their jobs back when they return from active duty. You have a right to reemployment as long as you gave your employer advance notice of the date you were entering active military service. You must be available for work within a reasonable amount of time after your discharge. Typically, you can't return home and take a six-week vacation before reporting back to work. You must also receive an honorable discharge to qualify for this protection.
You Can't Be Sued While Serving
Federal law stalls most lawsuits against you while you're actively serving your country. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), any litigation you're involved in at the time you enter active service is postponed. This allows you to concentrate on serving your country and eases the stress of unplanned deployment on your family. The SCRA includes lawsuits for credit card debt. Your creditors can't charge more than six-percent interest while you're serving, provided you incurred the debt before your service. If you contracted for an automobile lease before entering active duty, you have the right to break it without penalty The military has its own court system for offenses committed by active-duty personnel.
You Have Housing Rights
The SCRA also allows you to break a housing lease if you're called to active duty for a period of three months or more. You must give written (not oral) notice to your landlord. Your landlord can't evict your family for nonpayment of rent while you're serving. However, there's a cap based on the amount of rent you pay, and you must be on active duty. The cap is adjusted periodically to keep pace with rising costs of living. If your monthly rent payment is fairly high, your family may still have trouble paying any amount over the cap.
Your Sexual Orientation is Protected
In 2011, federal law repealed the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that restricted gay individuals from serving. Before this, gay and lesbian servicemembers could serve only if they concealed their sexual orientation. Otherwise, they risked dishonorable discharge. Repeal of this policy gives many of the same rights to gays and lesbians that it gives to other servicemembers. However, the Defense of Marriage Act still restricts partners' benefits.
A Civil Rights Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding your rights while in military service is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a civil rights lawyer.