Veterans Employment Rights

Very few states have as close a relationship to the military as Georgia does. In a struggling economy, where every job is precious, veterans have a great many rights that they may not be aware of under federal employment law. There are enough of these rights that returning veterans and reservists may think about consulting with an employment law attorney before setting off on a job search.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (called USERRA and passed in 1994) gives veterans certain job rights that are not enjoyed by non- veterans. Among those are protections for disabled veterans, federal employees, vets seeking to go back to their old jobs, and rights into the continuation of military health care.

A few details:

The total length of time that an individual may be absent from work for military duty and still retain reemployment rights is five years. There are some exceptions to the five-year limit, including initial enlistments lasting more than five years, periodic National Guard and Reserve training duty, and involuntary active duty extensions and recalls, especially during a time of national emergency.

USERRA provides protection for disabled veterans, requiring employers to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability. Service members convalescing from injuries received during service or training may have up to two years from the date of completion of service to return to their jobs or apply for reemployment.

The law has an “escalator” provision that requires placement into the job that the veteran would have had or been promoted to except for military service, and also requires that the vet be trained into that job. If that isn’t possible, then the law requires that every effort be made to place the vet into a similar job.

Veterans on duty are to be treated as if they are on a leave of absence for company benefit purposes. This includes benefits that are tied to seniority and to non- seniority benefits.

Veterans also have COBRA-like rights in their health coverage for individuals and for their families, up to 24 months. However, the vet would pay more than 100% of the premium cost.

Like most employment law, this is a highly complex area, since it exists on the interface between federal law and local employment. For a complete explanation of your rights under the USERRA, contact an employment lawyer.