The lesson will discuss the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, and address the rights uniformed service members have, along with the responsibilities of their civilian employers.
What is USERRA?
There are several acronyms, such as DOT and WHO (Department of Transportation and World Health Organization, respectively), which are recognizable to many individuals in society. However, the acronym USERRA is one which many people may not be as familiar with. The acronym USERRA stands for The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act.Enacted in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton, USERRA was put in place as a Federal Law meant to help protect our uniformed military service members and provide rights that they are guaranteed from their civilian employers. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that USERRA works to protect our service members.
The Right to Reemployment
To gain a better understanding of the right to reemployment, let’s assume that you are a uniformed service member who is currently working for an independent contractor. You have worked for him for the past seven years, and you have recently been summoned to fulfill your military obligations. To fulfill these requirements, you will have to leave your current employer for approximately one year. The right to reemployment makes it impossible (and illegal) for your civilian employer to deny you access to your former position, even though you were physically removed for a year. USERRA guarantees this right to the service member as long as the service member meets the following criteria:
- The uniformed service member has five years or less of combined service while with that specific civilian employer.
- Upon your return from duty, the uniformed service member should return to the previous work in a timely and efficient manner.
- The uniformed service member has informed the employer with written or verbal notice of the military obligations well in advance of the event.
- There has been no dishonorable or disqualifying discharge during the time of service.
Each uniformed service member must meet each of these requirements in order to be considered eligible for civilian reemployment. Upon the restoring of the civilian job, the civilian employer is required to allow the member to have the benefits which would have been provided had the service member not been called to leave for duty.
The Right of Freedom from Discrimination
Unfortunately, there may be instances in which an employer or individuals working for an employer feel the need to discriminate against uniformed service members for various reasons. The enactment of USERRA made it an illegal practice for civilian employers to discriminate against members of the armed forces for any unethical or unlawful reason. As with the right to reemployment, the right for our military service members to be free of discrimination is bound by law as long as the following criteria are met:
- The individual is a former or current member of the uniformed services.
- The individual has an obligation and a duty to serve in the uniformed services.
- The individual has applied to become a member of the uniformed services.
As long as these criteria are met, an employer cannot legally deny a uniformed member the following:
- Initial employment
- The ability to be retained or kept in employment
- Raises or promotions
- Any type of advantage or benefit due to a person’s military affiliation with uniformed services
Another caveat of this right is that it also protects the uniformed service member from being retaliated against. This means that civilian employers do not have the right to retaliate against any uniformed service members, including if they are enlisting the help of USERRA rights.
Health Insurance Rights
When uniformed service members are called to duty and away from civilian jobs, many of them fail to ask about the health insurance protection for themselves, as well as their loved ones.
Does that insurance lapse when a uniformed service member is called to serve? This issue has been rectified, thanks in part to USERRA. The uniformed service members have the right to have their coverage for themselves and their loved ones maintained while they are away on duty.The coverage for employer-based health plans lasts up to 24 months while they are enlisted.
Also, if the uniformed service members choose not to continue coverage as they are completing their military obligations, then they have the right to be reinstated in the employers’ health plans as soon as they are reemployed. This exists except for situations in which there are service-related illnesses or injuries.The creation of USSERA has helped to define the rights for uniformed service members, as well as the responsibilities that are to be held by their civilian employers.
USSERA, or The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, was enacted in 1994 to provide rights for protecting civilian jobs for those uniformed service members that are called away to duty.
USSERA also details the responsibilities that are to be held by those civilian employers. Here are the three primary rights that employers must provide uniformed service members:
- The Right to Reemployment
This provides uniformed service members the right to be reemployed after being called away to fulfill their military obligations.
- The Right to Freedom from Discrimination
This right makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against uniformed service members.
- Health Insurance Rights
This allows uniformed service members and their dependents to be covered up to 24 months while the service members are deployed for military service.