What are my rights under USERRA?
Almost all military members will have a non-military job outside of their service or will apply to one upon conclusion of their service. After serving, they should be able to return to their previous positions or apply to new ones without fear of being treated unfairly because of their status as service members. Thankfully, federal laws are in place to help protect these individuals’ job rights and secure them fair employment.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) is a federal law that aims to protect the job rights of individuals who leave civilian employment positions to serve in the military, or, in some cases, the National Disaster Medical System. Additionally, under USERRA, employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee based on his or her status as a current or former member of the uniformed services or his or her status as an applicant to the uniformed services. These individuals have a right to reemployment in their civilian jobs if certain criteria are met.
Criteria for Reemployment
You provide your employer with notice of your service in advance
Your service in the uniformed services is 5 years or less while with the employer
You seek reemployment with the employer in a timely manner following the conclusion of your service
You have not left the service under less than honorable conditions
Protections under USERRA
If USERRA applies to you, according to the law, you cannot be denied employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or other benefits of employment because of your military status. USERRA also prohibits retaliation against anyone who aids in its enforcement. For example, you are protected from retaliation if you and your employment lawyer file a lawsuit against an employer for denying you reemployment. This protection from retaliation applies to anyone who assists in the enforcement of USERRA rights, even if he or she is not a member of the military.
Health insurance is one of the benefits USERRA applies to. If you leave your job to serve in the military, you can keep your employer’s health insurance coverage for you and your dependents for up to 24 months while you are serving. If you choose not to continue your coverage during military service, you have the right to be reinstated in your employer’s health plan once reemployed.
Complaint Resolution Process
If you believe your USERRA rights have been violated by your employer, an employment attorney can guide you through the steps necessary to prepare for and take legal action. In any case against an employer, especially one in which USERRA might apply, it is beneficial to contact an employment attorney for advice.