Although the general rule in the United States is that employment is always at will and can be terminated without cause at any time, armed forces veterans are a big exception. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), veterans are entitled to a number of benefits. If employers violate veterans’ USERRA rights, veterans can sue to enforce compliance.
Congress enacted USERRA in 1996 to help reduce the disadvantages that veterans face when seeking civilian employment after time in the service. Although some of the requirements can be harsh for employers, the government deems them necessary to protect veterans from unfair discrimination.
One of the biggest USERRA benefits is the right to pick up any job role that they left behind to go into active duty. On top of this, veterans are entitled to resume the spot they would have held if they had not left. If a veteran would have received a promotion due to seniority, the employer must advance the veteran accordingly upon his or her return to work.
The statute also prohibits employers from refusing to hire new employees based on their status as a veteran. While this does not mean that employers are required to hire veterans who apply for jobs, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of a veteran’s military service. In the case of controversial deployments, this can be a powerful protection.
Lastly, in the unfortunate event that a serviceman or woman returns to the United States with an injury or disability, the employer must accommodate the disability. Rather than firing the employee, the employer must do everything reasonably possible to allow a veteran to continue in his or her previous role.
While USERRA equips veterans with powerful employee protections, violations can and do occur. Any veteran who believes his or her employer is violating these rights should consult an experienced California employment lawyer.
Source: AOL Jobs, “7 Signs Of Discrimination Against Veterans At Work,” Donna Ballman, Sept. 27, 2012