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What is USERRA and How Does it Protect My Job?

Posted by Kira Fonteneau | Apr 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

Reservists and National Guard members serving in the U.S. Armed Forces can face a lot of challenges when it comes to maintaining civilian employment. Employers often want the skills and experience that service members bring to the job, but deployments and annual training drills can be a struggle for employers. Fortunately, federal law protects members of the Armed Forces. Alabama employment attorneys want you to understand your rights when it comes to military service and private employment.

What is USERRA?

You may have heard of the federal law, but do you really know what it does? USERRA is short for the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and it prohibits employers from discriminating against employees (and applicants for employment), simply on the basis of military service.  The law is designed to ensure that a member of the Armed Forces can maintain his or her job in the civilian world, regardless of the need to mobilize in support of military duties.

The law is extremely complicated and has many nuances and exceptions, but in general, it accomplishes three things:

  • It protects service members against discrimination for employment, retention, advancement, benefits, and re-employment after returning from military service
  • It requires employers to give you up to 24 months of health insurance upon going on military leave
  • It makes clear that military service takes priority over private employment

To Whom Does USERRA Apply?

As a general rule, USERRA applies to all employers, no matter how small. Even a mom and pop shop with one employee is governed by the law. Unlike most federal wage discrimination laws and state labor laws, there is no industry restriction or size limitation; all employers are required to comply. Members of the Armed Forces who are over 40 years of age are also protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Common Ways Employers Violate USERRA

Every year, thousands of USERRA complaints are made to the Department of Labor, and many of them involve very similar violations, such as:

  • Refusing to hire a reservist
  • Taking away seniority after a deployment
  • Not providing health insurance while on military leave
  • Refusing promotions or advancement due to military status
  • Not letting a reservist or Guard member return at the same job or pay rate after military leave

Enforcing a Service Member's Rights Under USERRA

Unlike almost all other federal causes of action, there is no deadline on filing a lawsuit against an employer who discriminates against a member of the Armed Forces under USERRA. That said, if you are fired because of your attendance at military drills, or you suffer any other adverse employment consequences due to your military service, then you should immediately contact an attorney who understands this complex federal law.

The attorneys of Fonteneau & Arnold, LLC have decades of experience helping workers enforce their rights under state and federal law. If you have been the victim of a USERRA violation, and you believe your employer has discriminated against you on the basis of your military service, you may have a right to bring a civil lawsuit against the employer to recover for lost income, lost benefits, and other damages. Call or visit our firm online to learn more and get the help you need.

About the Author

Kira Fonteneau

Partner and Managing Attorney of the Alabama Trial Practice Group at Barrett & Farahany Kira Fonteneau is a partner and the managing attorney of the Alabama trial group of Barrett & Farahany. Kira chose to specialize in employment law because she wanted to help employees take back power. ...

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