Although race, gender, age, and disability are the most well-known forms of discrimination, veterans and current members of the armed forces are often subject to the very same behavior. Luckily, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects against such. Although shocking, discrimination against vets and servicemembers often comes from employers who worry that military duties will interfere with work.

Who is protected?

Those who are already members in the uniformed services are protected, but those who have applied, previously performed, or have an obligation to perform are also protected under USERRA. Uniformed service includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corp, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and the reserve components of each. In addition, Public Health Security corps may also be included.

How am I protected?

If you fall into one of the above categories, you cannot be denied initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, a promotion, or any benefit of employment based upon your status in the uniformed services. Benefits of employment include such things as vacation time, bonuses, insurance coverage, pensions, and more.

If you leave your current employment to perform voluntary OR involuntary uniformed service, upon return, you have the right to be reemployed at the same job with the same status and pay.

What do I need to do to protect myself?

So long as a servicemember meets five criteria, employers of any size must reemploy upon return. Those criteria are:

  • The servicemember must have been gone from his/her civilian job for uniformed service;
  • The servicemember must have given advance notice of service;
  • The cumulative uniformed service must not exceed five years;
  • Servicemember must not have been released from service under dishonorable or other punitive conditions;
  • The servicemember must have reported back to the civilian job in a timely manner or must have submitted a timely application for reemployment, unless this would have been impossible or unreasonable.

What can I recover?

If your employer has violated USERRA, you could possibly recover back pay, annual leave time, pension credits, severance pay, and even additional seniority you would have earned if you had been continuously employed. In addition, attorney fees may also be awarded, covering the cost of litigation.