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Compliance Assistance Resources

elaws - employment laws assistance for workers and small businesses

- Veterans' Employment and Career Transition Advisor

As a returning service member, you may have the right to return to the job you held before you were deployed. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a person who leaves a civilian job to perform military service (voluntarily or involuntarily) may be entitled to return to his or her civilian job after discharge or release from his or her military obligation if the service member meets basic eligibility criteria.

If certain eligibility criteria are met, USERRA requires that returning service members be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service (the "escalator" principle) with the same:

  • Seniority
  • Status
  • Pay
  • Other rights and benefits determined by seniority

USERRA requires that service members provide advance written or verbal notice to their employers for all military duty unless giving notice is impossible, unreasonable, or precluded by military necessity.

To be eligible for reemployment rights, an individual cannot have been absent from work for military duty for a cumulative length of time exceeding five years. However, there are important exceptions to the five-year limit, including initial enlistments lasting more than five years, periodic National Guard and reserve training duty, and involuntary active duty extensions and recalls, especially during a time of national emergency.

An individual must also make an application for reemployment or report back to work after military service within a period of time which is based on time spent on military duty:

  • For service of less than 31 days, the service member must return at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work period on the first full day after release from service, taking into account safe travel home plus an eight-hour rest period.
  • For service of more than 30 days but less than 181 days, the service member must submit an application for reemployment within 14 days of release from service.
  • For service of more than 180 days, an application for reemployment must be submitted within 90 days of release from service.

Service members recovering from injuries received during service or training may have up to two years to return to their jobs.

USERRA provides enhanced protection for disabled veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability. USERRA also requires that reasonable efforts (such as training or retraining) be made to enable returning service members to refresh or upgrade their skills to help them qualify for reemployment.

More information on USERRA can be found in the elaws USERRA Advisor. In addition, if you believe you have been denied reemployment or not properly reinstated because of your uniformed service, you can file a complaint online through this site. The Act itself can be found in the United States Code at Chapter 43, Part III, Title 38.

Furthermore, some states have state-specific reemployment rights laws that provide further protections for service members. For questions regarding state-specific reemployment rights legislation or for additional information on USERRA, please contact the Director for Veterans’ Employment and Training in your state. For contact information and employment options, please visit our state map and select your state.

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