Whether you are a reservist or subject to recall by a branch of the U.S. Military, you made the conscious choice to serve your country under some of the most inhospitable circumstances. You put your life on the line to preserve freedoms that some people take for granted. People should thank you and give you the respect you deserve for making such a sacrifice to your civilian life and your family.
Unfortunately, some employers do not give you that respect and attempt to terminate your employment or deny you employment due to your military service. You should know this goes against a federal law that provides you certain protections because you should not be penalized for fulfilling your obligations to the country.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
In 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to provide military service members with additional employment protections as it relates to their civilian employment. Being called into active duty is part of your agreement with the Armed Forces, and you may not have the choice to deny it.
Will your job be there for you when you return? This concern is the impetus behind USERRA, which gives you the right to reemployment in your civilian job if you have to leave to perform your military service. The following conditions apply:
- You have no more than five years of cumulative military service while working for a particular employer.
- You make sure your employer receives as much verbal or written advance notice as possible of your service.
- You return to your civilian job within a reasonable time after completing your service obligation.
- You separated from the military with an honorable discharge.
- Your employer must restore you to the same or a comparable position you left and provide you with the benefits you would have received had you not been called to active duty.
Another integral right you receive under USERRA is that your employer may not discriminate against you due to your military service obligations. For instance, an employer cannot deny you employment simply because you may be deployed at some point. Your current employer cannot fire you because you may or have been called to active duty. Your employer may not deny you an earned promotion either.
If you believe your employer is discriminating against you because of your obligations to the Armed Forces, you may have legal recourse. This is not a typical area of employment law, so it would benefit you greatly to work with a California attorney who routinely helps U.S. Military service members protected by USERRA.