USERRA, formally known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, is a federal law that protects the employment rights of current and former members of the U.S. military and certain other services. Requirements in this law are designed to reduce the difficulties service members often face when they take time away from work to serve their country.
The law establishes basic responsibilities for employers and prohibits them from discriminating against current or former military personnel. When employers violate workers’ USERRA rights, those workers may be eligible to receive compensation and other forms of relief.
USERRA Protections for Employees
Many of the provisions of USERRA protect employees who leave civilian jobs to work in the uniformed service. The law establishes the right to be reemployed by a civilian employer if the employee provides appropriate notice to the employer and meets other requirements. When employees are reinstated after service, they are supposed to be placed in the same type of job with the same benefits they would have received if they had not been away for duty. Employees who leave for military service also have the right to continue their employer-based health coverage for up to two years or to have that coverage reinstated when they return to work.
The discrimination provisions of USERRA apply not only to employees returning to jobs they left, but also to current or former service members seeking new employment. Employers are not allowed to discriminate in decisions involving hiring, retaining, promoting, or granting benefits to anyone based on past, present, or future military service. Additionally, employers must not take any actions that could be considered retaliation when workers exercise their rights under USERRA and they may not fire reinstated employees without cause for a certain period of time.
Who is Protected by USERRA?
USERRA provisions provide specific employment rights to current and former members of the “uniformed services.” Under 38 U.S.C. §4303 (16) this term includes those serving in the:
- Air Force
- Marine Corps
- Space Force
- Coast Guard
- Army National Guard or Air National Guard
- Commissioned corps of the Public Health Service
- Commissioned officer corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Other capacities specified in time of war or national emergency
The protections of USERRA apply regardless of whether individuals serve voluntarily or are drafted into service.
Remedies Available Under USERRA
When workers in the uniformed services believe their USERRA rights have been violated, the law gives them two options for seeking relief. They may file a lawsuit against the employer or file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service, known as VETS.
When a worker is found to have suffered from illegal discrimination or other violations, they could receive compensation to make up for losses such as back pay. They may also receive specific relief including:
- Reinstatement in a job
- Corrections made to personnel files
- Retroactive seniority
- Restored vacation time
- Pension adjustments
If a USERRA attorney can prove in court that an employer’s violation was “willful,” the service member may be entitled to receive double the amount as liquidated damages.
Work with an Experienced USERRA Attorney in Florida and Georgia
At The Leach Firm, P.A., we understand how to protect the rights of service members using all available provisions of USERRA and other state and federal laws. For a free case evaluation to find out how we could help in your situation, contact us online or call (844) 722-7567.