Filing a USERRA complaint is not difficult. However, the law sometimes chooses to be more confusing than it needs to be. We’re here to help unscramble your rights under the law.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) commits to protect military service members from discrimination in the civilian workplace. But, start by understanding what your rights are under USERRA. Another benefit of USERRA is the providence made for returning service members to return to their civilian job. The language used to define USERRA is broad, allowing the law to protect returning military service more.
Unfortunately, in some cases, employers do not meet USERRA employer guidelines. But if you are eligible under USERRA and your employer fails to meet USERRA guidelines, you have the right to file a USERRA complaint.
If you suspect that your employer may not be meeting USERRA requirements, consider contacting a USERRA lawyer.
But, before we dive into how to file a USERRA complaint.
You should know you do not need to go through the Department of Labor with your complaint. You can, in fact, file a private lawsuit immediately. If you’d like to take your case to court now, contact an employment lawyer.
File A USERRA Complaint
When your employer has violated USERRA, you can choose to file a complaint. The claim will be investigated and brought before the Department of Labor. Generally, DOL encourages mediation and informal resolution of the issue. However, if the issue is not resolved, the complaint can be carried farther in the court process. The law is meant to protect. You can help it do a better job by knowing your rights and having a knowledgeable guide to take you through the complaint process.
The Department of Labor, Veterans Employment & Training Service (DOL-VETS) is charged with investigating claims from employees who have felt that their employers have violated the law.
1. Fill out a VETS-1010 form.
Be sure to be detailed in your USERRA complaint and to specify which right your employer has failed to uphold. It is important that DOL-VETS knows what you are seeking to receive. Be clear and be honest.
2. Submit the VETS-1010 form based on accompanying instructions.
You can submit this form online or as a hard copy through mailing, hand delivery, or fax. Be sure that your contact information is current and that your employer’s information is correct as well. This will aid the investigative process.
3. The DOL-VETS will investigate your claim.
It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you or a colleague for participating in an investigation or filing a complaint against the employer. If retaliation happens, be sure to file another complaint in accordance with your original filing. Meanwhile, DOL-VETS examining the situation to validate your claim.
4. If your claim is considered discrimination, DOL-VETS will attempt to resolve the issue informally.
DOL-VETS starts the employer and employee with mediation and an interactive process in an effort to resolve the dispute. Usually, this means that the employee and employer meet together in the presence of a mediator to discuss the complaint. The mediator does not advise either party.
5. If resolution is not possible, you may choose representation and file a private lawsuit.
A lawsuit will be filed either with the Office of Special Counsel or the U.S. Department of Justice. And an attorney will know which administration to file your lawsuit under. At this stage, it is wise to seek the input and knowledge of a USERRA attorney because they will know your rights and how to fight for you under the law.
Although the law strives to protect uniformed service members from workplace discrimination, it’s rarely a straight forward procedure. Filing a USERRA complaint requires following a set of rules, but when the case becomes more complicated, a lawyer will know not only the standards that will help you but the unwritten rules as well. For example, during the earlier complaint process, you also have the option to file your claim with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). This board protects workers from wrong personnel practices from other colleagues. You may also file your claim in a federal or state court. Be sure to seek legal counsel for which area would be best for your complaint since these programs focus on different types of workplaces.
If you find yourself in the stressful situation of workplace discrimination because of your service to the United States military and you want to file a lawsuit, contact an USERRA lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.