KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
When a Reserve Citizen Airmen gets tasked to deploy, home station or abroad, the service member needs to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to being reemployed with their civilian employer after having performed duty in the uniformed service.
Veterans Employment and Training Service, an agency of the Department of Labor, oversees grants for Veterans seeking employment, maintains transition assistance programs for employment, and it also runs the Compliance and Investigation Division for employment complaints, which is responsible for overseeing the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
Information on the VETS’ USERRA program and can be located under the services section at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs.
“By statute, VETS is responsible for interpreting, administering and enforcing USERRA,” said Kenan Torrans, Director for Compliance and Investigations within VETS. “We take our responsibilities in protecting veterans’ and service members’ employment and reemployment rights very seriously.”
For those traditional reservists with civilian jobs, there are certain things they need to know regarding their employment rights in relation to long military leaves of absence.
“One important thing to note is that service members should always try to provide their employers a point of contact to keep them aware of their military status while serving on active duty,” said Torrans. “Communication is key to avoiding potential conflicts down the road.”
He explained that many times the complaints of USERRA violations result from misunderstandings of both employee and employer rights and responsibilities under the statute and the possibly the best reference for both the employee and employer of the USERRA regulations is 20 CFR Part 1002, which is written in a plain English, question and answer format and is located on the VETS website.
“One of our primary roles in discharging our USERRA responsibilities is to preserve the employer/employee relationship whenever possible,” said Torrans. “The key to this is often resolving disputes at the lowest level possible, and perhaps the best way to achieve this goal is through outreach and education by providing information on what their rights and responsibilities are under the statute.”
According to the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service website, in the Know Your Rights section at www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra/aboutuserra service members have the right to be reemployed in your civilian job if you leave that job to perform service so long as following criteria is met:
With deployments today, a service member may have concerns if their service was in a COVID-19 affected area and if they may have been exposed to COVID-19, service members can find the guidance here: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/VETS/files/USERRA-COVID-19-Impact.pdf
USERRA includes other protections such as the right to be free from discrimination and retaliation; the right to have health insurance protected, and the right to enforce the law by having VETS investigate and resolve complaints of USERRA violations.
While these rights listed may vary depending on the circumstances, service members can visit the VETS website at www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra for more information and additional USERRA resources, for both employee and employer rights.
This website also contains the USERRA elaws Advisor, FAQs, fact sheets, and links to the statute and implementing regulations. The toll-free number and helpline, available 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern Time, is 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). The Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve also provides resources available at www.esgr.mil.
And for local assistance or more information, reserve members can contact their state's Director for Veterans' Employment and Training (DVET) https://www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/about/regionaloffices.