Federal Rules Guide Veteran Job Rights

William Hubbartt

The U.S. Department of Labor in December announced final regulations providing guidance for employers on compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act known as USERRA. Originally passed in 1994, USERRA is the federal law that details workplace rights for military service members while they are on active duty and upon return to civilian life.

In announcing the release of the new regulation, the Labor Department reported that the regulations will benefit the more than 525,000 men and women who have been mobilized to fight the war on terror and the more than 390,000 who have recently been released from active duty. Written in a question and answer format, the regulations apply to every public and private employer, regardless of size of the organization. The law provides protection to any employee, defined as a person employed by an employer, in any job whether the job is full time, part time or temporary.

A veteran of the uniformed service who has served five years or less is entitled to re-employment to the job that he or she would have held if employment had not been interrupted by such service. Re-employment is subject to several requirements including the employee's responsibility to provide prior notice to the employer about service, the employee's timely return and re-application for employment, the employee being qualified to perform the job, and the separation from service must not be a disqualifying discharge or a discharge of other than honorable conditions.

However, the job re-employment provision does not apply to individuals who were working in a brief non-recurrent job.

Returning service members must be promptly re-employed, and the employer must apply the "escalator principal, " a guideline that specifies that the individual be re-employed with the same seniority, status, and pay they would have attained if continuously employed.

The employer is responsible to offer continued health insurance to the service member and/or dependents while in service. Service of 30 days or less should continue in the same manner and costs as for other employees. Health insurance continuation must be offered at a specified premium rate up to 102% of premium costs for service of 31 days or more.

In the event that a veteran returns with a disability, the employer is obligated to make a reasonable accommodation for the individual's condition. But the veteran must be able to demonstrate qualification to perform the job's essential functions within a reasonable time period. Employers are responsible to post a specified notice regarding USERRA rights in the workplace. Employees and veterans are afforded protection from anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation acts as a result of exercise of rights relating to USERRA.

Complaints relating to violation of rights under USERRA may be presented to the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS). A VETS representative may conduct an investigation and seek compliance with the act. In addition, legal action may be brought in an appropriate court the Attorney General or the complainant may retain legal representation to present a complaint.

William S. Hubbartt is a human resources and privacy consultant and author of 8 books on management and privacy issues.
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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