Protecting the rights of veterans in the workplace
Although the United States generally reveres the service and sacrifice of our military veterans they can sometimes have a difficult time finding and retaining jobs upon returning to the workforce. Employers may assume that current or past members of the military may be called back to service thereby costing them valuable work time. Additionally, veterans returning from wars can have an especially hard time finding work if they are experiencing the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. In order to help current military members and veterans maintain and find jobs Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA.”) This law provides several protections for veterans with three of the most prominent explained below.
Employers must retain jobs for those called to service
If you are in the National Guard or Reserves and you are called to duty your employer cannot fire you on the basis of being called to service. The employer must hold your job for up to a period of five years. This protection can exist even if you enlist in active duty for four years and then wish to return to your old job after completing your service. An important caveat to this is that the employee must give the employer ample notice of their deployment or call to military service. If insufficient notice is given they may not be granted the protections of USERRA.
Employers cannot terminate on the basis of being a veteran
Another important protection provided by USERAA is a prohibition on the termination of employees based on their military service. Thus, an employer cannot discriminate against someone because they are a veteran or terminate them for serving in the military. If they do then very strong penalties and avenues of recovery exist for the employee who was targeted and terminated. Such a victim of discrimination can recover back wages, front wages, emotional damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Protections for disabled veterans
Employers also cannot discriminate against a service member because of a service-related disability. The employer must provide reasonable accommodations to help the employee perform his or her job. Additionally, if a service member becomes disabled while on duty the employer is required to give the employee up to two years time to recover from the injury and return to work.
Oftentimes veterans face many obstacles in returning to work after serving in the military. The USERRA law exists to help veterans retain and find work when returning from service. Some of the laws most important protections include requiring employers to give the service member her old position back, protecting her from discrimination on the basis of their service and giving disabled veterans the time and accommodations they need to return to work.
If you are a veteran and you have had difficulty finding or retaining your job on the basis of your military service please call Kraemer, Manes and Associates for a free consultation.