Understanding Military USERRA Laws: Protecting Service Members’ Employment Rights

by | Military Rights | 1 comment

Navigating the balance between civilian employment and military service can be challenging. That’s where the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) steps in. Designed to protect the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave their civilian jobs to undertake military service, USERRA ensures you can serve your country without sacrificing your career.

Understanding USERRA is crucial for both service members and employers. Whether you’re a reservist concerned about job security or an employer aiming to comply with federal regulations, knowing the ins and outs of these laws can save you from potential legal pitfalls. Let’s dive into the key aspects of USERRA that you need to know.

Understanding USERRA: Basics and Significance


USERRA, established in 1994, stands for the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. This federal law protects military service members’ employment rights when they’re called to active duty. It aims to ensure that individuals who serve in the armed forces, including the Reserves and National Guard, can return to their civilian jobs without facing disadvantages due to their service. USERRA covers almost all civilian employees, including part-time and temporary workers.

Key Provisions of USERRA

Reemployment Rights

Service members who leave their civilian jobs for military duty are entitled to reemployment in their previous position or a similar one. To qualify, they must provide advance notice to their employers and have served under honorable conditions. The period of military service also affects the timeline for returning to work, with limits ranging from 14 days to 90 days based on the duration of service.

Protection from Discrimination and Retaliation

Employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their military obligations. This includes hiring, promotion, or any benefit of employment. Additionally, service members are protected from retaliation if they exercise their USERRA rights or assist others in doing so.

Health Insurance Continuation

During periods of military service, employees can elect to continue their employer-provided health insurance for up to 24 months. If the service period is less than 31 days, the employer cannot charge more than the normal employee share for coverage. For longer service periods, the premium can be up to 102% of the full premium.

Accrued Benefits and Seniority

Returning service members are entitled to the same benefits and seniority they would have attained if they hadn’t left for military duty. This includes pension plans, promotions, and any other employment benefits that are based on seniority.

Enforcement and Remedies

USERRA enforcement involves the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). If you believe your USERRA rights are violated, you can file a complaint with VETS. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for lost benefits.

Rights and Protections under USERRA

Rights for Reservists and National Guard Members

USERRA provides several rights to reservists and National Guard members. The act mandates reemployment rights, ensuring you can return to your civilian job after completing military service. Reemployment rights apply if your cumulative military service while with a particular employer doesn’t exceed five years. This protection extends to voluntary and involuntary service, whether in peacetime or wartime.

The law also prohibits employment discrimination. Employers can’t deny initial employment, reemployment, retention, promotion, or any benefit of employment based on your military service. For example, if you’re a reservist and apply for a job, the employer can’t reject your application because of your military commitments.

USERRA ensures you receive the seniority and benefits you would have accrued if you hadn’t been absent due to military service. For instance, if your tenure entitles you to a raise, you’re eligible for this raise upon your return. Additionally, you can elect to continue your employer-based health insurance for yourself and your dependents for up to 24 months while in the military.

Employer Obligations Under USERRA

Employers must comply with specific USERRA requirements. They must reemploy you in a position you would have attained if your employment wasn’t interrupted by military service, given you meet certain conditions. If you served for less than 91 days, you’re entitled to your previous job. If you served more than 90 days, the employer must place you in a position of like seniority, status, and pay.

Notification of military service is another obligation. You (or an officer from your unit) must inform your employer of your upcoming military service. This notification can be verbal or written, but providing written notice ensures better documentation.

Employers must accommodate any service-connected disabilities. If you can’t perform your old job due to a disability incurred or aggravated during service, the employer must make reasonable efforts to help you qualify for a different position that suits your abilities.

Finally, USERRA mandates that employers treat time spent on duty as continuous service concerning pension plans. Employers must fund pension plans as though you’re still employed, ensuring retirement benefits are protected.

These rights and employer obligations under USERRA ensure your civilian career remains secure while you serve.

The Application of USERRA Laws

Case Studies: USERRA in Action

Several high-profile cases illustrate how USERRA protects service members’ employment rights. In Smith v. City of Cambridge, a police officer returned from duty to find his position filled. The court ruled in favor of Smith, mandating his reemployment. This case highlights the act’s enforcement of job reinstatement.

Another significant instance is Serricchio v. Wachovia Securities LLC. Serricchio, an investment advisor, returned from military leave to a demoted position. The court’s decision underscored USERRA’s provision for returning service members to their previous or a comparable position.

These cases emphasize the importance of knowing your rights under USERRA and demonstrate the judiciary’s role in upholding these protections.

Current Challenges and Legal Debates

USERRA implementation faces several challenges. Employers sometimes discover it difficult to accommodate returning service members, especially in rapidly changing industries. Small businesses face unique strains due to limited resources.

Legal debates often arise over the extent of USERRA protections. Some argue for expanding coverage to include more comprehensive benefits and broader definitions of employment rights. Others contend it already places significant burdens on employers.

Another debate focuses on service-related disabilities and reasonable accommodation. Determining what constitutes a reasonable accommodation can be contentious, with differing perspectives on the employer’s obligations.

These challenges and debates stress the need for ongoing dialogue and potential legislative updates to balance the rights of service members and employers effectively.

Resources and Support for Affected Individuals

How to Claim Your Rights

To claim your rights under USERRA, notify your employer of your military service in writing before deployment. Upon returning, seek reemployment promptly within the time frames specified by USERRA. Gather necessary documents such as military orders and ID, as they’re crucial for verifying service.

If you face issues with reemployment or discrimination, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS). You can submit the complaint online using the VETS e1010 system. This system simplifies the process by allowing you to track the status of your complaint.

For legal disputes, you may consider bringing a case to the Merit Systems Protection Board or a federal court. Consulting with an attorney who’s specialized in military employment laws can provide invaluable guidance.

Organizations That Offer Assistance

Several organizations offer assistance to service members affected by USERRA issues:

  • Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR): ESGR helps resolve conflicts between service members and their civilian employers. They provide ombudsman services and mediation.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): DOL’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) enforces USERRA rights and handles complaints efficiently. They offer resources and guidance for filing complaints.
  • Military Legal Assistance Programs: Many military branches offer legal assistance programs, including Judge Advocate General (JAG) services, to help navigate USERRA issues.
  • Non-Profit Organizations: Groups like the Service Members Law Center and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) provide legal advice and advocacy.

Access these resources to ensure your rights under USERRA are upheld and to receive the necessary support during transitions back to civilian employment.


Understanding your rights under USERRA is crucial for ensuring job security and fair treatment when transitioning between civilian employment and military service. By staying informed and proactive, you can navigate the complexities of reemployment and discrimination protections. Utilize resources like ESGR and DOL’s VETS to help address any issues you might face. Remember, timely communication with your employer and thorough documentation are key steps in protecting your rights. With the right knowledge and support, you can confidently uphold your employment rights while serving our nation.


post page form.


Next Steps: Sync an Email Add-On

To get the most out of your form, we suggest that you sync this form with an email add-on. To learn more about your email add-on options, visit the following page (https://www.gravityforms.com/the-8-best-email-plugins-for-wordpress-in-2020/). Important: Delete this tip before you publish the form.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.