USERRA Law for Employers: Key Responsibilities, Compliance, and Legal Consequences

by | Military Rights | 1 comment

Navigating the complexities of employment law can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to understanding the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). As an employer, it’s crucial to know your obligations under USERRA to ensure you’re providing the necessary protections for employees who serve in the military. This law not only safeguards their jobs but also outlines your responsibilities in accommodating their service commitments.

By familiarizing yourself with USERRA, you can create a supportive work environment that respects the sacrifices made by service members. This article will break down the essential aspects of USERRA, helping you stay compliant and foster a culture of respect and support for your employees in uniform.

Overview of USERRA Law for Employers


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects service members’ employment and reemployment rights when they return from a period of service. Enacted in 1994, USERRA ensures that individuals who serve in the armed forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, can return to their civilian employment without disadvantage. The law prohibits employment discrimination based on past, present, or future military service. Employers must understand USERRA to comply and support their service member employees.

Who Is Covered by USERRA?

USERRA covers individuals who perform duty, voluntarily or involuntarily, in the uniformed services. It includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Public Health Service commissioned corps, and the National Guard. The law also extends to periods of active duty, training, and even fitness for duty exams. Any organization, regardless of size, must comply with USERRA provisions, ensuring that service members can return to their civilian jobs with their seniority, health insurance, and other rights intact.

Employer Obligations Under USERRA

Reemployment Rights of Veterans

You must ensure that veterans returning to civilian employment after military service can resume their jobs without penalty. Reservists and National Guard members covered under USERRA are entitled to reemployment in their civilian jobs if they provide timely notice of their service and if they return within the time constraints specified by the law. Their position upon return should be equivalent in seniority, status, and pay, reflecting the level they would have achieved had they not been absent due to military service.

Health Insurance Protection

You’re required to offer health insurance protection to employees on military leave. Under USERRA, individuals can maintain their employer-based health coverage for up to 24 months while serving in the military. If they decide not to continue the employer-based coverage, they must be reinstated without a waiting period or exclusion when they return, assuming no lapse in coverage occurred longer than 24 months.

Anti-Discrimination Provisions

You can’t discriminate against individuals due to their military obligations. USERRA prohibits employment discrimination based on past, present, or future military service. This protection includes hiring, promotion, benefits, and all other aspects of employment. If an employee believes discrimination has occurred, they can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS).

Each of these obligations helps ensure compliance with USERRA and supports your veteran employees’ career transitions.

Managing Employee Military Leaves

Notification Requirements

Regulations under USERRA mandate that employees provide advance notice of their military service to their employers. Notice can be written or verbal, delivered by the employee or an authorized military officer. Ensure proper documentation of this notice to streamline the leave process. Exceptions apply if giving notice is impossible, unreasonable, or precluded by military necessity.

Rights and Benefits During Leave

USERRA ensures that employees on military leave retain specific rights and benefits. Employees continuing their service for up to 30 days are entitled to maintain their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. For longer services, coverage can be extended up to 24 months at the employees’ expense. Additionally, employees accrue seniority and other benefits as if they remained continuously employed, covering aspects such as pension plans and promotions. Employers must safeguard these rights to stay compliant and support service members’ return to civilian life.

Legal Consequences of Non-Compliance

Penalties and Enforcement

Non-compliance with USERRA can lead to various penalties for employers. The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) investigates complaints and refers unresolved cases to the Attorney General or the Office of Special Counsel. Employers may face civil penalties, including back pay, lost benefits, and liquidated damages equal to the amount of lost wages if the violation is found to be willful. Furthermore, a court can order reinstatement of the affected employee or require the employer to provide other equitable relief.

Case Studies of Non-Compliance

Several case studies highlight the repercussions of failing to comply with USERRA. In one instance, a company fired a reservist shortly after his return from active duty, leading to a lawsuit where the court awarded the employee back pay and reinstated his position. In another case, an employer denied a veteran a promotion upon returning from service. The court ruled in favor of the veteran, ordering the company to promote him and pay the difference in salary retroactively. These examples underscore the importance of adhering to USERRA guidelines to avoid legal battles and penalties.


Understanding and complying with USERRA is crucial for fostering a supportive work environment for military service members. By adhering to the guidelines, you not only fulfill your legal obligations but also demonstrate a commitment to those who serve. Ensuring proper reemployment rights and managing military leaves effectively can help you avoid costly legal repercussions. Stay informed and proactive in your approach to USERRA compliance to maintain a positive and legally sound workplace.


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