Do you have a military veteran, reservist or National Guard service member on your books? If so, it is a good idea to be aware of what the law requires when it comes to handling employees who may be called to active duty—whether to a war or disaster zone.
Here is what you need to know:
Know how the law protects employee rights
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects the reemployment rights of service members when they return from active duty and prohibits any form of discrimination by employers based on military service or obligation. It also protects employees’ benefit rights when they are required to perform military service.
Understand your obligations as an employer
If you or your human resources team do not know the requirements of USERRA, you should familiarize yourself with its key details. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) website includes a variety of tools, FAQs, posters and fact sheets for both employers and employees.
Another useful resource is the USERRA Advisor, which is part of a useful collection of “elaws Advisors” from the DOL that provide advice on all aspects of employment law). The advisor lets you easily navigate by Employer Issues or Employee Issues.
Here is a breakdown of your key obligations as an employer to active duty military service members:
- You must provide employees information about their rights under USERRA. How you do this is up to you, however the DOL website does provide posters and fact sheets to help you share information easily with employees.
- You must provide reemployment to uniformed employees for up to five years after they are called for active duty.
- You must continue to provide serving employees and their dependents with health coverage benefits for up to 24 months while they are serving. If the employee chooses not to continue coverage, USERRA gives them the right to be reinstated in your plan when they are reemployed.
- Returning service members must be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent, with the same seniority, status, benefits and pay.
- Service members who are convalescing from service or training injuries have two years from the date their service was complete to return to employment.
While it is important to be aware of your obligations, employees also have their obligations to employers and that includes providing you with adequate verbal and written notice of their impending active duty—unless this is “…impossible, unreasonable or precluded by military necessity.”
According to the USERRA, adequate notice should be given “as far in advance as is reasonable under the circumstances.”
Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer and marketing communications consultant. Caron has worked with organizations including the Small Business Administration (SBA.gov) and private companies to promote essential resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley.