This post was originally posted on Memorial Day 2012. Unfortunately I think its message is still pertinent to today’s workplace. Having come from a military family I think one of the best ways to honor the military today is by obeying the law. The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Act (USERRA) was established to protect those who go off and protect us.
This post is being published on Memorial Day in the United States, a Federal holiday that has come to be a celebration honoring out military men and women. Its origin goes back to the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day. It was to honor the fallen soldiers of the U.S. Civil war. By the 20th Century it was extended to honor all the Americans who died in any war. Since then it has been taken to honor all American military members living and dead. (See Wikipedia Memorial Day.)
Unfortunately honoring the men and women who are serving or who have served quite often does not extend to the workplace. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires re-employment of employees who leave work for military service, prohibits retaliation and discrimination against employees because of their military service, and prohibits termination because of military service. Yet employers in both the private and public sector continue to violate this law. The Federal government itself is not immune and because it employees so many veterans it is also one of the bigger violators.
If we truly want to honor military service (and I am not so sure that everyone does, see Companies Get the Liability for Supervisors Decisions) then we can start by obeying the law. USERRA is not an easy law. It has a number of things that need to be done depending on the amount of time a service member is away from the job they held before military duty. But it applies to ALL employers both big and small and private sector versus public sector.
There is no excuse for not following the law which means any violation is intentional. I say there is not excuse because there is ample guidance for understanding the law. Here are some of those resources:
- USERRA Advisor – This is a decision-making tool that helps provide an understanding of the law
- VETS USERRA Fact Sheet 3– Information about the law
- The USERRA Poster– Required of all employers
- Compliance Assistance– A comprehensive explanation of the law and what is required to comply with it.
So now you have no excuse. Avoid embarrassing yourself and your company by getting sued for violating USERRA. If you think “how bad can I get in trouble?” read this story of a $695,000 judgment against a company for their violation of USERRA, then you will understand.