Law protects civilian employment of guardsmen and reservists

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Christopher Trotter
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Staff Judge Advocate Office

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Concerned about maintaining civilian employment while serving your country as a reservist or guardsman?

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protects the civilian employment of reserve uniformed servicemembers called to active duty.

USERRA applies to all Federal, state, local, private, and international employers operating within the United States. An employer may not deny initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to a reservist or guardsman called to active duty.

USERRA requires that returning servicemembers are reemployed in the job that they would have attained with the same seniority status and pay, had they not been preoccupied with military service.

An employer must receive advance notice of military service, and the service member must have less than five years of cumulative military service while with that particular employer. The service member must return to work in a timely manner at the conclusion of service, and must not have been separated from service with a discharge under other than honorable conditions.

Your employer cannot penalize you for frequently deploying as long as the aforementioned were accomplished.

Additionally, USERRA provides protections for civilian health plan coverage. Servicemembers have the right to elect to continue existing civilian employer-based health insurance coverage for up to 24 months. The member may be required to pay up to 102 percent of the full premium.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service investigates and resolves complaints of USERRA violations. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against anyone who files a complaint under USERRA, testifies or otherwise participates in any investigation or proceeding under the law.

USERRA is a critical piece of legislation that gives reserve personnel peace of mind that they can serve their country and return to their civilian place of work unhindered.

Team Vance relies heavily upon reserve personnel, especially those in the 5th Flying Training Squadron and the instruction they provide to student pilots during the current service-wide pilot shortage.

The office of the Staff Judge Advocate is able to provide legal advice regarding potential USERRA violations. However, the office can only provide advice to reservists while they are on active duty orders.

Reserve personnel are encouraged to make appointments with the Legal Office, 580-213-7404, to seek more information regarding their protections under USERRA before returning to civilian employers.