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Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act Overview

South Carolina Air National Guard families celebrate family day. (Photo: SMSgt Edward Snyder/South Carolina Air National Guard)
South Carolina Air National Guard families celebrate family day. (Photo: SMSgt Edward Snyder/South Carolina Air National Guard)

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law, passed in 1994, that protects military service members and veterans from employment discrimination on the basis of their service, and allows them to regain their civilian jobs following a period of uniformed service.

USERRA applies to members of the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard, and other “Uniformed Services” (including the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service). The law ensures that service members:

  1. Are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their military service;
  2. Are promptly re-employed in their civilian jobs upon return from duty;
  3. Are not discriminated against by employers because of past, present, or future military service.

USERRA applies to both public and private employers.

REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS
You have the right to be reemployed in your civilian job if you leave that job to perform service in the uniformed service and:

  • you ensure that your employer receives advance written or verbal notice of your service;
  • you have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services while with that particular employer;
  • you return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after conclusion of service; and
  • you have not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge or under other than honorable conditions.

If you are eligible to be reemployed, you must be restored to the job and benefits you would have attained if you had not been absent due to military service or, in some cases, a comparable job.

See our USERRA Remployment Protection Explained page for more information.

RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM DISCRIMINATION AND RETALIATION
If you:

  • are a past or present member of the uniformed service;
  • have applied for membership in the uniformed service; or
  • are obligated to serve in the uniformed service;

then an employer may not deny you:

  • initial employment;
  • reemployment;
  • retention in employment;
  • promotion; or
  • any benefit of employment because of this status.

In addition, an employer may not retaliate against anyone assisting in the enforcement of USERRA rights, including testifying or making a statement in connection with a proceeding under USERRA, even if that person has no service connection.

See our USERRA Discrimination Program Explained page for more information.

HEALTH INSURANCE PROTECTION
If you leave your job to perform military service, you have the right to elect to continue your existing employer-based health plan coverage for you and your dependents for up to 24 months while in the military.

Even if you don't elect to continue coverage during your military service, you have the right to be reinstated in your employer's health plan when you are reemployed, generally without any waiting periods or exclusions (e.g., pre-existing condition exclusions) except for service-connected illnesses or injuries.

See our USERRA Continued Health Care Coverage page for more information.

ENFORCEMENT
The U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) is authorized to investigate and resolve complaints of USERRA violations.

If you file a complaint with VETS and VETS is unable to resolve it, you may request that your case be referred to the Department of Justice or the Office of Special Counsel, as applicable, for representation.

You may also bypass the VETS process and bring a civil action against an employer for violations of USERRA.

Related Topics

USERRA

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