The Washington Post recently reported that the federal government was the greatest violator of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Labor Department Statistics obtained through Freedom of Information Act showed that in the fiscal year 2011, more than 18 percent of the 1,548 violation complaints filed through USERRA involved federal agencies.
What is USERRA?
USERRA requires that virtually all employers regardless of size comply with the act’s employment requirements. USERRA applies to full-time, part-time, and probationary employees in any of the armed services, including the reserves of all armed services, the National Guard, the Air National Guard, and employees performing certain disaster response work. Armed service individuals who give employers advance notice of their armed service obligation and whose cumulative service is less than five years have the right to reemployment and cannot be denied employment, promotion, or benefits based on their military service obligations.
Even small businesses must comply with USERRA rules and regulations, which can be taxing for a small business. Penalties for USERRA violations may include having to compensate a claimant for lost wages or benefits. A small business owner must know that based on a military member’s period of service, for a certain length of time, the employer cannot terminate the employee except for just cause. Also returning employees from USERRA leaves must be offered seniority-based rights and benefits as if they had continued working at the job during the period of their absence.
For questions and legal advice about dealing with employees returning from USERRA leaves consult an experienced New York employment defense lawyer .