If you've never heard of this or you're not sure what it means or what it stands for, you're not alone, so don't feel lonesome. A lot of folks are unfamiliar with this acronym. It stands for Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. So, why should you care? Here's why. USERRA is a Federal Law that protects the Veteran's civilian job rights and benefits, and this law applies to every employer in the United States.
A Veteran may be absent from their civilian job, because of military duty, for up to five years and retain their reemployment rights. There are certain exeptions to the five year limit, but the important thing is that "USERRA clearly establishes that reemployment protection does not depend on the timing, frequency, duration, or nature of an individual's service as long as the basic eligibility criteria are met".
USERRA also provides employment protection for service connected disabled Vets in that it requires employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate their disability if the injury or illness was incurred in the line of duty. Also, if a service member was convalescing from injuries incurred during service or training, they have up to two years from the date of discharge from military service to return to their jobs or apply for reemployment.
Ok, now this part is real important, so listen up. Under USERRA, the returning service member should be reemployed in the job they "would have attained" had they not been absent for military service with the same seniority, status and pay as well as any other rights and benefits associated with seniority. Employers are also required to make reasonable efforts to enable returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment.
Health and pension plan coverage is also protected under USERRA. If your military service was less than 31 days, coverage is provided as if you had remained employed. If your service was for more than 30 days you can elect to continue your employer sponsored coverage for up to 24 months, but you may be required to pay up to 102 percent of the full premium.
Time spent in military service determines how much time you have to apply for reemployment. If you served 30 days or less, you have until the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work period on the first full day after release from military service. If you served at least 31 days, but less than 181 days, you must apply for reemployment within 14 days of release from service. If you served for more than 180 days, you must submit a reemployment application within 90 days your release from service.
So far we've talked about what the employer is responsible for, but you have responsibililties as well. For instance, USERRA requires you to provide advance written or verbal notice to your employer. Also, you should provide this notice as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances, unless giving notice is impossible, unreasonable or precluded by military duty. Also in order to qualify for USERRA protection, the employee must not have a disqualifying factor like a dishonorable discharge.
To learn more about your rights under USERRA, visit www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra
This Federal Law is administered and enforced by the U. S. Department of Labor's Office of Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) in Lewiston, Maine . To obtain more information and/or to file a complaint, call 207-753-9090.