With so many of our country’s men and women serving in the Armed Services, every business owner and manager needs to know the basics of USERRA, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
The Act, and its amendments, protects eligible members of the uniformed military services from discrimination in employment and from adverse employment decisions regarding initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any other benefit of employment.
USSERA and your business
Hiring decision and USERRA
Because employers may not discriminate or retaliate against qualified individuals because of their past, current or future service in the military, you as a business owner or manager cannot make your staffing choices based on facts like whether an applicant is currently part of a military reserve unit, has a break in their resume because of military service, or even because you, as the employer, oppose military service or the nature of the applicant’s military service.
Employee pay and USERRA
The rate of pay for a job cannot be based upon the fact that an employee or applicant has been in the service, or is likely to be absent from work for military-related obligations.
Leave of absence and reemployment and USERRA
USERRA also requires employers to grant time off for military service, reinstate employees returning from military leave, grant seniority and applicable benefits to returning members, and train or otherwise qualify employees returning from military duty for reemployment.
The military-based employee absences or a leave of absence for military service cannot be used to disqualify a returning employee from promotion, awards, raises or other time-based benefits. Nor can you refuse to allow an employee to take protected leave for any covered military obligation.
Time of employment and USERRA
There is no minimum employment period required to qualify for military leave rights. Even a new employee who has joined an organization days before taking military leave is eligible for protection. Part-time employees are eligible, too.
What kind of employers are bound by USSERA rules?
Unlike many federal labor laws which apply only to employers of a certain size or a certain type of business, USERRA applies to nearly all employers, regardless of number of employees, number of locations or nature of business.
What is an employee absence for the purposes of USSERA?
The employee coverage offered under USERRA’s reemployment rights and benefits extends to all employees absent from work due to service in the “uniformed services.”
This includes employee absences required for:
- Active duty
- Active duty for training
- Initial active duty for training
- Inactive duty training
- Full-time National Guard duty
- Employee absences from work for an examination to determine a person’s fitness for any of the above categories of duty
- Funeral honors duty performed by National Guard or reserve members
- Duty performed by intermittent employees of the National Disaster Medical System (which is part of the Department of Homeland Security – Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate) when activated for a public health emergency, and approved training to prepare for such service
Make sure anyone at your business with authority to hire, promote or discharge employees knows the basics of USERRA. Include USERRA protection in your business’ employee attendance policy.
And be sure your attendance tracking system is able to note employee absences protected by USSERA. Violation of the USERRA guidelines can carry costly fines and penalties.