USERRA is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. It protects members of the National Guard and military reserve who get called away from their civilian jobs for extended periods of active duty and weekend training or short-term responses to natural disasters. Specifically, the federal law ensures that members of the military do not get fired or lose seniority while they are deployed and that they are not discriminated against because they must attend drill or other military obligations. It also prevents employers and co-workers from discriminating against service members.
As USERRA attorneys in Cleveland, Ohio, most of the cases we handle involve soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Air Force personnel who returned from deployments and found their positions filled by other people. Our cases also involve employees who are discriminated against or terminated because of their military obligations. USERRA requires employers to hold covered individuals’ positions for up to five years as long the service members file proper notice and stay in touch about return dates.
Should a member of the military come back from a combat zone or other duty station injured, an employer is supposed to work with its employee to provide accommodations for disabilities and ongoing health care. Further, employers have duties under USERRA law to preserve a deployed employee’s eligibility for raises, promotions, and benefits, including employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.
The application of USERRA and the enforcement of the rights that the law grants can get quite complicated. For instance, the five years of job protection is cumulative. When a deployed employee uses one year of USERAA job protection, he or she then has another four years of job protection. Keeping track of this falls on both the employer and the employee.
Another common issue with USERRA involves the provision that a deployed employee be allowed to return to the position he or she left. In practice, the employer must reemploy the service member in a job with the same pay, seniority, benefits and basic responsibilities. Disputes over what qualifies as the same basic responsibilities may need to be settled by a court, especially if a reassignment involves a relocation.
One more way an employer can violate a service member’s USERRA rights is by refusing to provide transition time and training to the employee when he or she returns from a deployment. The need for downtime between getting back into town and resuming work duties, as well the requirement to refresh or acquire skills, will vary from person to person. But both needs must be met in a reasonable fashion. And, of course, the definition of reasonable is often up for debate and is defined by case law in Ohio.
The employee rights attorneys in the Cleveland offices of The Friedman Firm welcome requests for USERRA consultations from service members. We will do all we can to ensure that military personnel can serve their country and fellow citizens without sacrificing their civilian careers or experiencing discrimination of any kind.
To schedule an appointment, call us (440) 703-8550. We make our services available to all residents of Ohio, and we also maintain offices in Columbus. Anyone can connect with us online by completing this contact form.