USERRA: What employers need to know

It's important for companies to understand and comply with various legal guidelines. While the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Affordable Care Act have different requirements for businesses of various sizes, there are other laws that don't follow suit.

One example is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. 

"USERRA covers military personnel returning from service."

USERRA: What is it?
In its most basic form, USERRA aims to provide reemployment rights to men and women returning from military service. In addition, the law requires organizations to provide the necessary training and resources former military personnel may need to acclimate back into working life – also known as reasonable efforts.

Time constraints
Under USERRA, employees partaking in military services are eligible for the same non-seniority benefits given to other workers on leave. That often means access to healthcare, as is the case with people taking Family Medical Leave.

USERRA shares other similarities with FMLA. Just like employees returning from having a baby or from taking care of a family member are allotted a certain time frame for their leave, servicemembers are also held to certain constraints for coming back to their position. The United States Department of Labor breaks them down as such:

  • Military personnel serving for 30 days or less must return to their job for their regularly scheduled shift the day after they are released. They are also entitled to eight hours of rest, which could push back the start date.
  • Servicemembers on military leave for 31 to 180 days have to apply for reinstatement with their employer within 14 days of their return.
  • Employees returning from military service after 181 days or more must apply for reemployment no later than 90 days after completion of their leave.

USERRA also addresses the possibility that servicemembers may have experienced an injury or illness during their leave. In these cases, deadlines for reemployment can be pushed back up to two years.

The escalator rule
One element of USERRA entitles employees returning from service the opportunity to attain the position they could have held had they not been away. This means that servicemembers are eligible to receive the compensation, benefits and seniority they had when they left, if not a promotion with additional advantages.

Yet, the escalator can also go the other way, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. If employees in the same position as the servicemember have been demoted or laid off, companies have the right to take the same course of action with workers who were away on military service.

Next step for employers
The role of company leaders is to ensure that returning service members are able to adapt back into the position and work-life balance they held prior to their leave. Furthermore, employers have to be cognizant of avoiding any actions that could be deemed discriminatory. These include, but are not limited to, denying benefits of employment as a result of a person's service in the military. While reemployment is a large focus within USERRA, the discrimination covered applies to eligibility, initial employment, retention in employment, promotion and more, according to the DOL. 

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