As thousands of military reservists are called to active duty, many will leave their civilian jobs for months or even years. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) applies to virtually all employers and provides a wide range of job protections for those on active or reserve duty in the armed forces. In many situations, employers must allow unpaid leaves of absence (up to a cumulative total of five years for each employee) for military service or other related activities. Health care coverage, pension plans, and other employee benefits are also affected by USERRA.
When a deployment ends, employers are generally required to provide prompt re?employment unless certain narrow exceptions apply. USERRA also includes a provision known as the “escalator principle,” which may require an employer to promote the returning employee if a promotion would have been likely but for the military leave. For proven violations, USERRA allows recovery of lost wages and benefits — which can be doubled if a violation was willful — as well as an employee’s reasonable attorney fees and other litigation expenses.
As conflict abroad continues, USERRA compliance takes on heightened importance. Taft’s Labor and Employment attorneys have experience guiding employers through the complicated issues that employees’ military service can present.