By LaDonna Lusher
On Veterans Day, we take time to honor and remember individuals who have undertaken military service. Yet, many veterans and service personnel experience employment discrimination, unaware of protections that the law affords them. For example, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was passed to protect the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave their employment to undertake military service, members of reserve components, and individuals activated by the President of the United States to provide Federal Response for National Emergencies. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the military, and applicants to uniformed services.

Enacted in 1994 to clarify and strengthen the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights Statute, USERRA ensures military personnel that they have the right to be reemployed in their civilian job if they leave that job to perform military service so long as:  1) the individual gives their employer advance notice; 2) has five years or less of cumulative service in the military while with that employer; 3) returns to work in a timely manner after the conclusion of their service; and 4) was not separated from service with a disqualifying discharge or under less than honorable conditions. 

Veterans and service personnel also have the right to be free from discrimination and retaliation in their employment.  It is unlawful for their employers to deny them initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion or any benefit of employment because of their military status.  Employers are further prohibited from retaliating against anyone asserting their rights under USERRA.

Finally, if service personnel leave their job to perform military service, they have the right to continue their existing employer-based health plan for up to 24 months while in the military, including coverage for their dependents.  Veterans further have the right to be reinstated to their employer’s health plan when they are reemployed. 

If you think you have experienced employment discrimination or retaliation due to your status as a veteran or because you are actively engaged in military service, know your rights under USERRA and contact the attorneys at Virginia & Ambinder, LLP for a free consultation.