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USERRA 101

The Uniformed Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act

Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) in 1994. The purpose of the legislation was to:

“to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services by eliminating or minimizing the disadvantages to civilian careers and employment which can result from such service; to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing service in the uniformed services as well as to their employers, their fellow employees, and their communities, by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service; and to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services.”  38 U.S.C. § 4301.

USERRA prohibits discrimination in employment based on an individual’s prior service in the uniformed services; current service in the uniformed services; or intent to join the uniformed services. USERRA requires employers to reemploy eligible veterans returning to their civilian employment after a period of service in the uniformed services. It requires employers, with certain exceptions, to provide training to restore competency in duties, and to restore seniority, status, pay, pensions, and other benefits that would have accrued but for the employee’s absence due to military service.

In order to be considered an eligible veteran with a valid claim, you need to provide your employer with advance written or verbal notice of your service commitment. You must have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services while employed with the same employer. You must return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner at the end of your service, and you could not have been discharged under other than honorable conditions or under another disqualifying discharge.

The U.S. Department of Labor Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (DOL/VETS) is tasked with assisting individuals with USERRA claims. If you believe your USERRA rights have been violated you may file a complaint with VETS, who will then investigate the claim. Complaints can be filed online, in person, or through mail or fax. If VETS is not able to resolve the claim, you may request your claim be referred to the Department of Justice if your case involves a private, State, or local government employer, and to the Office of Special Council for cases involving a Federal employer. You have the right to pursue enforcement of USERRA at your own expense, in U.S. District Court or before the Merit Systems Protection Board, either on your own or with the assistance of a private attorney. The attorneys at Patriots Law Group of Lyons & Hughes, P.C. are experienced in multiple areas of employment law.