Servicemen and women are often called away from their place of employment to deploy overseas, to engage in domestic military exercises, or to attend weekend training. Under USERRA, or Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, employers are required to honor the commitments of military personnel without prejudicial treatment upon their return.
All employers who employ military men and women must adhere to the following basic regulations USERRA sets forth. Note that terminating an employee in Texas who is affiliated with the United States Military without showing cause may come with hefty fines and other civil liabilities.
The law applies to employees in private and public sectors without respect to size.
Right to Reemployment
USERRA provides military personnel up to five cumulative years of employment protection before they forfeit their right to maintain their current position (although there are some exceptions to the five year cap). The five years do not have to be spent consecutively, but employers must be given proper notice unless military necessities arise.
Orders to deploy or requesting military personnel report to duty must come from the proper chain of command to be considered authentic. Recurring orders to report for drills or exercises are not conveyed by authorities, thereby exempting them from written notification.
Returning employees must be reemployed in the job they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status, pay and benefits. Furthermore, employers are required to expend reasonable efforts to enable returning servicemembers to refresh or upgrade their skills in order to qualify for reemployment.
Rights to Benefits
Military members who leave for covered events are entitled to retain certain benefits from their employer. Continuous health coverage, pay and prestige increases based on merit, and any performance bonuses paid to regular employees that service personnel may have accrued should be given to employees during their deployment, and upon their return.
Both benefits and reemployment rights both come with expectations that employees must meet, unless covered activities prevent them from being met.
Notification Rights Retained by Employer
When employees leave for service, they retain reinstatement rights by the employer only when the notification rules below are met, unless time, national security or active war prevent such notifications:
- For service that is less than or equal to 31 days, employees must return to work the next full day after safe return home.
- For service that is more than 31 days but less than 181 days, employers must accept applications for reemployment if received within 14 days of the expected release of employee.
- For service that extends beyond 180 days, employers must receive an application for reemployment within 90 days of release.
When active duty personnel return to work, they are entitled to the same advancement opportunities they would have received had they stayed behind. Employers must also provide adequate training to keep returning employees refreshed and inform them of any policy changes introduced in their absence.
USERRA Requirements are complex and these guidelines are not all inclusive. Given the stipulations, rules, and expectations under this law, it is a good idea to consult an attorney with questions concerning your specific situation. Simon | Paschal PLLC provides exceptionally trained and educated employment law attorneys who can answer your questions and provide guidance for USERRA compliance.