Protecting Your Reemployment Rights
For members of the National Guard, who are sometimes called on to respond to domestic disasters or deploy overseas, it's critical that they know and understand their reemployment rights once they return from duty.
Two girls welcome their dad, a member New Jersey National Guard 119th Combat Service Support Battalion, returning home from deployment in Afghanistan.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects service members' reemployment rights and provides that an employer must give you time off to perform that military service and reemploy you following the service with status, seniority and rate of pay as though you never left. The employer cannot discriminate against you because of your military connection.
Several improvements have been made to the law benefiting the National Guard since its original passage in 1994. Last year, a bipartisan bill championed by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Blunt (R-MO) in the Senate and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) in the House to protect National Guard members was included in the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act. The "National Guard Employment Protection Act" extends the same reemployment rights to the men and of the National Guard ordered to duty in the United States as those deployed overseas, sending a critical message that duty in emergencies at home is no less important to our nation than as service overseas. Prior to the bill's passage, some members of the National Guard were not covered under those exemptions, forcing many National Guard members to choose between keeping their civilian jobs and serving our country.
However, to date, the Department of Defense has not yet issued any guidance related to the new law. Last week, Sens. Gillibrand and Blunt followed up with a letter to DoD inquiring about the status and their plans to implement the law. It's absolutely critical that DoD implements this law immediately and informs both employers and National Guard members of their rights under the law.
An another USERRA-related note, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) introduced a bill last week, S. 3236, that would improve the protection and enforcement of employment and reemployment rights of our members following deployment by getting rid of the mandate in employee contracts that requires arbitration in USERRA claims; expands USERRA to protect reemployment following absences from work for treatment of service-connected injuries; and adds USERRA violations to the list of offenses that could suspend or bar an employer from contracting with the federal government. NGAUS wrote a letter of support for this bill. We encourage you to contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor it.