Military Law

Enforcing Your Veteran Employment Rights

Veterans sometimes need help finding a job after their military service. They had to put a halt on their civilian careers to help protect our country. They may have received injuries during their service time that give them certain disabilities. That's why the federal government passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The USERRA protects the employment and reemployment rights of veterans.

What happens if you believe your military service is being used against you? Your employer must follow the provisions of the USERRA. He can't discriminate based on military service. If he does, you have the ability to enforce your employment rights.

Assistance in Obtaining Your Employment Rights

The first step you should take in obtaining your employment benefits is to file a complaint with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS). The complaint can be mailed to the VETS office closest to your employer. It should include the name and address of your employer, as well as a summary of your allegations.

The VETS must investigate your complaint. Assistance will be provided to you with respect to your rights. The VETS may even request assistance from other federal and state agencies.

If the investigation is in your favor, the VETS will attempt to resolve the complaint. Reasonable efforts will be made to get your employer to comply with USERRA. If your complaint can't be resolved, the VETS will notify you of the results of the investigation and your right to proceed.

Requesting Help from the US Attorney General

If the VETS can't resolve your complaint, you can request that it be sent to the US Attorney General (AG). The AG will decide within 60 days whether to represent you. If the AG believes that you're entitled to the right you're seeking, a lawsuit may be commenced by the AG on your behalf against your employer. The AG will act as your attorney.

Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Employer

You have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer under the USERRA. You gain this right if one of these three events occurs:

  • You choose not to request assistance from the VETS
  • You choose not to refer the complaint to the AG
  • You've been denied representation by the AG

If your lawsuit is against a private employer, you must file your lawsuit in one of the district courts of the United States. It can be any district where the employer maintains a place of business. If your employer is a state, you must file in a state court located in the state.

Available Remedies

The main reason for a lawsuit is to gain a remedy for your legal problem. There are a number of remedies available under the USERRA. The court can require your employer to:

  • Comply with the provisions of the USERRA
  • Compensate you for any loss wages or benefits
  • Pay you liquidated damages if the USERRA was willfully disobeyed

The court also has certain equity powers to help in the enforcement of your employment rights. Some examples include:

  • Contempt orders
  • Temporary restraining orders
  • Permanent or temporary injunctions

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are the benefits of having an attorney help me file a discrimination lawsuit?
  • Should I ask for assistance from the VETS before I file a lawsuit?
  • Am I protected from retaliation by my employer if I file a discrimination complaint?
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