NOTE: The intention of this article is to provide general information only. It reflects the law at publication time. To find out how the law applies to your situation, or how to provide notice properly, contact your legal assistance office or ESGR.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, commonly known as USERRA, is a federal law that protects you in your civilian job when you're called up for active duty. The act encourages non-career military service by minimizing civilian employment problems arising from your service. Under USERRA, an employer — including any government or private entity, regardless of size — can't deny you reemployment, promotion or any benefit because you served in the armed forces.
To receive coverage under USERRA's reemployment protections, is important to understand all the eligibility requirements and the steps you must take before, during and after deployment to qualify.
Does USERRA cover you?
The act covers current and former service members in all categories of military training and service, and applies to both National Guard and reserve members. It also covers active component personnel and certain types of service by members of the National Disaster Medical System. However, being a member of one of these groups doesn't by itself ensure coverage for USERRA's reemployment protections.
Eligibility for reemployment rights
To be eligible for reemployment rights after your military service, you must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
- Employment. You must have held a civilian job, which includes temporary jobs.
- Advance notice. You must give advance notice that you'll be going on active duty unless, for some reason, it's impossible or unreasonable to give notice. You can give advance notice verbally, by sending a certified letter, or by hand delivering a letter. An appropriate military representative can also give notice for you. If it's impossible or you're not able to give advance notice, you can still be covered by USERRA's protections. Contact an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve customer service representative to find out who can give notice for you.
- Maximum period of absence. The maximum time you can be absent from your employer is no more than five years. This is a combined total of all of your absences as long as you're employed by (or seeking reemployment with) the same employer. Some periods of military service are exempt from USERRA's five-year limit: Your most recent National Guard or reserve training (or any special training), and the time you serve in war or emergency and involuntary service. You receive a new five-year entitlement when you start a job with a new employer.
- Honorable service. You must be honorably discharged and provide proof from a military authority. You may lose your USERRA entitlement if separated under anything but honorable conditions.
- Prompt return to work. You must return to work or apply for reemployment promptly. However, the definition of "prompt" depends on how long you're gone. If you're gone for up to 30 days, you must report to the first shift that begins after your military duty ends, allowing appropriate time for rest and travel. If you're gone from 31 to 180 days, you must apply for work no later than 14 days after your military service. If you're gone for 181 days or more, you must apply for work no later than 90 days after returning. However, if you're late returning to work, you don't necessarily lose your job rights. Contact an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve customer service representative for more details.