Talent Circles

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Employment Laws Companies Should Know Regarding Veterans – USERRA

Learn more about best practices in recruiting veteran and military job seekers by joining a Talent Circles sponsored webinar on 2/13/14 at 9:00 PM PSTClick here to register & learn more. 
By Jessica Miller-Merrell 

Not to long ago I was talking with a non-profit who called me for some HR advice. They were looking for suggested job sites and social networks to post their new job opening for a key position in their company.

While making some suggestions and talking to their CEO I also got a back-story about why they had the opening. Their current employee in the soon to be open position was national guardsman and was being called into active duty. He was set to go overseas. They were making the decision to terminate him and bring in a new member of the team.

They were wrong.

USERRA is short for the Unified Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and requires re-employment of employees who leave work for military service, prohibits retaliation and discrimination against employees because of their military service, and prohibits termination because of military service. According USERRA, the CEO from the non-profit above couldn’t terminate the newly activated National Guard member. They were required to place him on military leave and hire a temporary replacement employee.

Unlike many employment laws, there isn’t a minimum employee threshold for employers to adhere to USERRA. All employers regardless of the size from 1 to infinity, public as well as private sectors are obligated to abide by USERRA fully.

USERRA is one of the most common employment law offenses for employers mostly due to the fact that employers are in violation and unaware like the CEO I described. Fines and penalties for employers vary and may include lost wages, benefits and even liquidated damages all for willful violations.

USERRA keeps military members, active, veteran and National Guard free from discrimination. Employers can’t deny these individuals any of the following:
  • Initial employment
  • Re-employment
  • Retention in employment
  • Promotion
  • Any benefit of employment
A year later when the employee from the non-profit returned from his military tour of duty, USERRA guaranteed that his job was there when he returned and his employer returned him from military leave. He received salary increases and was also eligible for promotions if he would have received one if he had been an active employee.

This is part 1 of our veteran and military employment law series. You can read more of our military and veteran articles on the Talent Circles Blog.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

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