Military Law

Employment Discrimination against Veterans

Have you ever served in the military? As a veteran, are you seeking employment? The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was created to help veterans find jobs after their military service. You may even have a reemployment right to your old job.

Sometimes an employer will base his decisions on military service. Whether you're seeking initial employment or reemployment, you're protected from discrimination. The USERRA contains specific provisions about discrimination against veterans.

USERRA Discrimination Protection

Employers aren't legally allowed to discriminate based on past, present or future military service. This rule applies throughout the entire work relationship. Based on your service, you can't be denied:

  • Initial employment
  • Reemployment
  • Promotions
  • Employee benefits
  • Retention in employment

Sometimes it may be difficult to know if an adverse decision was made based on military service. You should always try to work out any problems with your employer before filing a lawsuit. A little patience may be able to save you time and money.

Reemployment rights are a great way to help veterans return to their normal civilian lives. You have a reemployment right if you met these five conditions:

  • You held a civilian job when you volunteered or were called to duty
  • You informed your employer that you were going to serve in the military
  • Your service time didn't exceed five years
  • You were released from the military with at least a general discharge
  • You reported back to work in a timely manner

Proving Employer Discrimination

You have the burden of proof if you claim your employer is committing discrimination. You have to prove that your military service was a motivating factor when your employer was making the decision against you. You can use either direct or circumstantial evidence. Some factors that may prove discrimination include:

  • Close time between the military service and the adverse decision
  • Inconsistencies in the employer's actions
  • Hostile actions or comments
  • Difference in treatment of veterans than from other employees

The burden of proof shifts to your employer if you prove your military service was a motivating factor. Your employer will have a chance to avoid liability. He can show that he would have made the same decision in the absence of your military service.

Protection against Employer Retaliation

You're entitled to enforce your rights under the USERRA. Your employer can't hold this against you. The USERRA protects you from any retaliation from your employer.

You should testify and assist a discrimination investigation. Your employer can't retaliate against you for your help. Any assistance you provide will help prevent discrimination in the future.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are the benefits of having an attorney help me file a discrimination lawsuit?
  • Should I directly confront my employer about the discrimination?
  • What do I do if I am fired? How do I know if my military service was a motivating factor?

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