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NEWS | June 14, 2011

USERRA gives service members certain civilian reemployment rights

By 628th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate

From the The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act became law in 1994 and was enacted in order to protect the civilian job rights and benefits of veterans returning from military duty. Its further purpose is to encourage non-career military service and prevent discrimination against those returning from this service.

USERRA provides reemployment rights for those who leave a civilian job in order to perform active duty military service. USERRA establishes the cumulative length of time an individual may be absent from their civilian job for military service and still retain reemployment rights at five years. Exceptions that may allow an absence longer than five years include an initial enlistment of more than five years and involuntary active duty extensions and recalls, especially those during times of national emergency.

USERRA applies to all employers in the U.S., regardless of the employer's size. This includes federal, state and local governments, private companies, foreign companies operating within the U.S. and its territories and U.S. companies operating in foreign countries.

Here are some important points to remember regarding reemployment under USERRA. When the service member is ready to return to work, the employer must adhere to the "escalator principle." The escalator principle guarantees that the returning service member be reemployed in the position he or she would have attained had they not been absent for military service. USERRA mandates the employer must also make a reasonable effort to refresh or upgrade the skills of the service member so the member can qualify for reemployment at that position.

It is incumbent upon the service member to follow the established timelines in order to return to previous employment. The period a service member has to report back to work is based on the time spent on active duty. If time on active duty is less than 31 days, the service member must return at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work period. For service greater than 30 days but less than 181 days, the service member must submit an application for reemployment within 14 days of the release from service. For service of more than 180 days, an application for reemployment must be submitted within 90 days of release from service.

USERRA also provides protection for disabled veterans by requiring employers to ensure reasonable efforts are made to accommodate the disability. In addition, service members convalescing from injuries received during service may have up to two years from the service completion date to return to their former positions.

For further information on USERRA, visit the Department of Labor website at or contact the Joint Base Legal Offices at 963-5502 (Air Base) or 764-7642 (Weapons Station).