The brave men and women who join our military services sacrifice much to protect our country. The federal government has granted certain rights and benefits to veterans after their service is complete. One of these rights is the right to reemployment. If you're a veteran who left a civilian job to serve in the military, you may have legal protection to help regain that job.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
The right of veterans to reemployment is only as good as the strength of the laws that protect that right. In order to clarify and strengthen this right, the federal government passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The USERRA contains many laws that help regulate the duties of veterans and their employers.
There are a number of purposes for the USERRA. Some of the key ones include:
- To encourage people to volunteer for non-career roles in the military services by eliminating or minimizing employment disadvantages
- To provide for prompt reemployment after service is completed to minimize disruptions to the veterans and their employers
- To prohibit discrimination based on military service
Who's Entitled to Reemployment?
The key question you may ask is whether the USERRA applies to your situation. The right to reemployment under the USERRA doesn't apply to everyone. There are five conditions that must be met for you to be protected:
- You held a civilian job when you volunteered or were called to duty
- You informed your employer 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
The requirement of a "civilian job" is very broad. It includes all private employers, federal executive agencies and state and local governments. There's no set size that a private employer has to be before the USERRA applies.
Any type of notice, whether written or oral, is valid to meet the notice requirement to employers. However, you may want to use written notice and keep a copy for your records. This type of notice may protect you if there's a dispute in the future.
There are a number of exceptions to the five-year rule. These exceptions can extend the length of the five-year period. Some exceptions include:
- You're retained in times of war or national emergency
- Inactive duty training
- Ordered to active duty in support of a critical mission
If you receive a bad conduct discharge or a dishonorable discharge, you lose your right to reemployment. Many veteran benefits and rights are based on the type of discharge you receive. The government doesn't want to award bad behavior.
The number one thing you need to remember after your service is to report back to work quickly. Your reemployment right doesn't last long. The USERRA bases the amount of time on the length of your military service:
- Service period 30 days or less - you must report back to work at the beginning of the first regularly scheduled work period after you return home plus an additional eight hours
- Service period 31 days to 180 days - you must apply for reemployment within 14 days and provide proof of your military service
- Service period 181 or more days - you must apply for reemployment within 90 days and provide proof of your military service
Benefits from Reemployment
Once you're reemployed, you're entitled to the benefits you would have attained if you didn't serve. Your seniority status will be as if you remained continuously employed. You'll receive any promotions or raises that your fellow employees received while you were away.
Benefits available to other employees, such as pensions, must be offered to you. However, vacation time doesn't continue to accrue. You'll retain what you had prior to serving in the military. Employers can't force you to use vacation time during your military service.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What are the benefits of having an attorney help me apply for reemployment?
- After my military service, can I work for a different employer and then apply for reemployment with my old employer? What if I am still within 90 days of my military discharge?
- What can I do if half my co-workers have received promotions when I am away and the other half have not received any promotions? Can I prove that I would have received a promotion if I stayed?