NOTE: The intention of this article is to provide general information only. It reflects the law at the time of publication. To find out how the law applies to your situation, or how to provide notice properly, contact your legal assistance office or the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, or ESGR, website.
You have more rights and benefits than you might think regarding your job after deployment. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act - commonly known as USERRA - is a federal law that provides transitioning and former service members protections related to the civilian jobs they held before being called up for active duty. The law helps you, as a non-career military service member, by minimizing civilian job issues resulting from your military service.
Under USERRA, an employer - including any government or private company, regardless of size - may not deny you employment, promotion or any benefit of employment because you served in the military or are obliged to perform military service. Find out what your entitlements are under this act.
Entitlements under USERRA
If you meet the eligibility criteria under USERRA, you have seven basic entitlements:
- Reinstated job: Your employer must give you back your pre-deployment job or position, or one that's equal to it.
- Accrued seniority: You're entitled to accrue seniority as if you'd been continuously employed. This "escalator principle" allows you to keep accruing seniority at the point you would've had if you hadn't been called to active duty.
- Retained status: The status you would've attained if you'd been continuously employed includes such things as the same location, the opportunity to work during the day instead of at night, and the opportunity to work at times and places where there are better opportunities to earn commissions or promotions.
- Reinstated civilian health insurance coverage: If you don't elect to continue health coverage during your military service, you're entitled to immediate reinstatement.
- Retained non-seniority benefits: You retain the same benefits - such as holiday pay, bonuses, pension plan participation and vesting - as you would if you'd been on a furlough or leave of absence.
- Trained or retrained and other accommodations: The law requires an employer to make reasonable efforts to qualify you for work, including training or retraining on new equipment or different methods.
- Accommodated for a disability: Your employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate you if you returned from service disabled, as long as you were otherwise entitled to reemployment. The disability doesn't need to be permanent in order to retain your rights (for example, a broken leg). If your employer can't accommodate your disability - or it disqualifies you from your pre-service job - your employer is required to offer you another position that's most similar in terms of seniority, status and pay.
Additionally, the U.S. Army has a process for reintegrating soldiers and Department of the Army civilians into their pre-deployment jobs. For more information, read, "Policy and Implementing Guidance for Deployment Cycle Support."