In fiscal 2011, 1,548 soldiers filed complaints of violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), enacted in 1994. The law applies to all employers but the federal government was the largest single offender in 2011 accounting for 18 percent of the complaints. More than a quarter of federal employees are veterans, and the federal government is the largest employer of National Guard and reservists. About 14 percent of the 855,000 Guard members and reservists serving hold civilian jobs with the federal government. But lately the U.S. government has denied jobs and withdrawn job offers because service members were not yet released from military service. Other veterans claim they have been fired after service-related absences. Some government employers have forced reservists to leave military service as a condition of employment, which is also prohibited. USERRA calls on the federal government to be a "model employer" for service members. At the same time, some of the worst offenders are the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service.One purpose of USERRA is to protect the civilian careers of returning service members so that they are not disadvantaged because of their service. Experts say the system for changing employer practices is flawed because there is not a single agency with enforcement oversight, and there is little incentive for the government to improve. "Returning veterans allege job discrimination by federal government," www.mysanantonio.com (Feb. 19, 2012).Commentary Congress passed USERRA in 1994 to prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees or applicants for employment because of their past, current or future military service.USERRA covers nearly all employees, including part-time and probationary employees. The Act applies to persons who perform duty in the "uniformed services," including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Public Health Service commissioned corps, as well as the reserve components of each of these services. Federal training or service in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard also falls under USERRA. In addition, under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2002, certain disaster response work (and authorized training for such work) is considered "service in the uniformed services."While the source article focuses on discrimination by government employers, virtually all employers, regardless of size, are subject to USERRA. Employers must make reasonable efforts to train or retrain returning service members to help them qualify for reemployment or provide alternative positions if the returning employee cannot qualify for the "escalator" position – the job the employee could have expected to achieve if he or she had stayed on the job rather than serving in the military. But employers must not forget that discrimination based on military service or status is prohibited by the Act for first time job applicants as well. With many service members returning to the workforce, employers must not reject job applicants who have served in the armed forces simply because of preconceived notions, assumptions or stereotypes relating to their military service.Also, USERRA requirements provide a minimum standard, but states can add additional protections that go beyond the federal ones. An employer should always check with an attorney to see if its state has protections for service members beyond those found in USERRA.
Hiring Veterans - A Step-by-Step Toolkit for Employershttp://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/flexibleschedules.htm
This informational piece was published on April 5, 2012.
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April 5, 2012