As many current members of our uniformed services return to re-enter the workplace, it is important to understand the employment rights that apply. Under a Federal law known as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), members of the uniformed services are entitled to return to their jobs as if they had never been deployed. USSERA is designed to prohibit employment discrimination against any person on the basis of membership in the uniformed services, and to provide reemployment rights (i.e. job security) after return from service. Essentially, USERRA provides the following:
- Reemployment rights;
- Right to be free from discrimination and retaliation; and
- Health insurance protection (continuation).
The U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) is authorized to investigate and resolve complaints of USERRA violations. Although monetary damages for lost wages, benefits, and attorney’s fees are available, the law does not offer “punitive damages.” Legal remedies under USERRA are limited to the steps an employer must take to be in compliance with USERRA. For example, if an employer fires someone who is serving because they did not want an employee who would be gone for a year, a likely remedy would be requiring the employer to rehire the employee and award back pay for the time that that the employee could have been employed by the company while the claim was pending.
Although USERRA provides important protections and assurances, it does not protect an employee from being terminated for misconduct, nor does it address every dispute that an employee may have with their employer. As a result, an employer may still terminate a military veteran for legitimate reasons, but not because of the employee’s absence during uniformed service.
If you are a member of our nation’s armed services, we salute and thank you for your service. If you are being deployed or returning home; or, if you are an employer, we can help you understand your rights and obligations, respectively.
At Wilson McCoy, P.A. we have experience in handling veteran reemployment cases and addressing scenarios on behalf of both employees and employers under USERRA. If you would like counsel on such a matter, or to know more about your rights in your particular circumstance, please contact us at 407-803-5400 or [email protected], for an analysis of your situation and to schedule a consultation.