Employment Law Basics: Dealing With Employees and Military Rights

Employment laws can be confusing and downright scary.

They don’t have to be. As a public service, from now until my special Halloween webinar Answers to the World’s Scariest Employment Law Questions, I’ll be tackling each major law one by one to give you what you REALLY need to know. By the end, you’ll have handy one-page cheat sheets for each and every law and your terror level will be reduced to zero.

Today’s Topic: USERRA, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Here is basically everything you need to know about Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) in one handy post.


Who’s covered?

Employees who serve or have served in, or applied to, the uniformed services

What’s provided?

  • Reemployment rights;
  • Benefits rights;
  • Retention rights.

What’s prohibited?

  • Discrimination based on service, past or present, in the uniformed services.
  • Retaliation based on the exercise of USERRA rights.

What are an employee’s reemployment rights?

An employee who is absent due to military service is entitled to reemployment into the same or a comparable position, as though s/he had been continuously employed.

What are an employee’s benefits rights?

  • The same rights and benefits the employee had on the date of commencement of service, plus additional seniority-based rights and benefits as though s/he had been continuously employed.
  • Treated as though s/he is on a leave of absence and is entitled to the same rights and benefits as other employees on leaves of absence — an employee may, but cannot be required to, use accrued vacation or paid leave during a period of absence due to service.
  • The ability to elect to continue health insurance coverage for up to 24 months, at no more than 102% of the cost of the full premium under the plan.
  • The same pension benefits as though he or she had been continuously employed.

What are an employee’s retention rights?

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An employee who is absent due to military service can’t be terminated except for cause within:

  • One (1) year of reemployment if employee’s period of military service prior to the reemployment lasted more than 180 days; or,
  • 180 days of reemployment if employee’s period of service prior to the reemployment lasted more than 30 days but less than 181 days.

What are an employee’s obligations?

  • To provide advanced notice of the service obligation, unless such notice is impossible or unreasonable.
  • To submit an application for reemployment in a timely manner after the conclusion of service.
  • An employee is entitled to reemployment rights if he or she has 5 years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services.

Are employers required to provide notice?

Employers are required to provide notice of the rights and benefits provided under USERRA.

What are the potential penalties?

  • Reinstatement;
  • Back pay;
  • Liquidated damages;
  • Attorneys’ fees

Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow we’ll de-scare-ify Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

This was originally published on Manpower Group’s Employment Blawg.

Mark Toth has served as Manpower Group North America's Chief Legal Officer since 2000. He also serves on the company’s Global Leadership Team, Global Legal Lead Team and North American Lead Team. Mark is recognized as an expert on legal issues affecting the U.S. workplace and is frequently quoted in media from The Wall Street Journal to 60 Minutes. He is also a past Chair of the American Staffing Association and is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. Contact him at mark.toth@manpowergroup.com.


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