American Guardsmen and Reservists have been called to duty to help with a variety of functions related to stemming the tide of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The duties vary by location, but many of you have probably seen military personnel assisting with drive-through COVID-19 testing sites.
Many of these Guardsmen and Reservists have full-time jobs in a wide array of industries. Their jobs are protected whenever they are called to serve under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. The law is commonly referred to by its acronym “USERRA” and it was established to ensure that jobs are not jeopardized for men and women called to serve their country.
There are similar state laws across the country, and Georgia is one of the states that offers job protections for members of the National Guard and the Reserves.
Here’s what the U.S. Department of Labor has to say about USERRA rights:
YOUR RIGHTS UNDER USERRA, THE UNIFORMED SERVICES EMPLOYMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS ACT
USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service or certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed services, and applicants to the uniformed services.
- You have the right to be reemployed in your civilian job if you leave that job to perform service in the uniformed service
- You ensure that your employer receives advance written or verbal notice of your service
- You have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services while with that particular employer
- You return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after conclusion of service
- You have not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge or under other than honorable conditions
If you are eligible to be reemployed, you must be restored to the job and benefits you would have attained if you had not been absent due to military service or, in some cases, a comparable job.
RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION
- Are a past or present member of the uniformed service
- Have applied for membership in the uniformed service
- Are obligated to serve in the uniformed service
Then an employer may not use this status to deny you:
- Initial employment
- Retention in employment
- Any benefit of employment
In addition, an employer may not retaliate against anyone assisting in the enforcement of USERRA rights, including testifying or making a statement in connection with a proceeding under USERRA, even if that person has no service connection.
HEALTH INSURANCE PROTECTION
- If you leave your job to perform military service, you have the right to elect to continue your existing employer-based health plan coverage for you and your dependents for up to 24 months while in the military.
- Even if you don’t elect to continue coverage during your military service, you have the right to be reinstated in your employer’s health plan when you are reemployed, generally without any waiting periods or exclusions (e.g., pre-existing condition exclusions) except for service-connected illnesses or injuries.
If you or a member of your family have been called to military duty because of COVID-19 and were not permitted to return to your previous job after that or any other military service, we are prepared to help you. Call us at 404-487-0922 so that one of our attorneys can talk through your situation with you and advise you about what can be the best option for you.