Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor
their job back when they return to the United States from a tour of
active duty is obviously critical in reserve-component Soldiers’
Lt. Col. Hal Baird of the
Installation Legal Office talks about legal issues with
personnel form the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team during a
(Photo by Tom Michele)
they will get their job back is made easier for Soldiers if they are
familiar with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment
Rights Act (USERRA), the law that protects Soldiers from losing
employment they had prior to putting on the military uniform and
reporting for military service.
title USERRA is a long one, but Fort McCoy Command Judge Advocate for
the Regional Training Center-North Maj. Joel Olson explained it,
"USERRA is important so Soldiers mobilizing for duty will be
confident they will have a job when they return home and not have lost
any job opportunities or benefits." Olson also serves as a legal
assistance attorney at the Fort McCoy Installation Legal Office (ILO).
about USERRA will allow Soldiers to not worry about their job back
home so they can concentrate on their military mission," Olson
is one of the topics JAG officers explain to Soldiers in the opening
stage of mobilization processing and also in the demobilization
briefings when the Soldier returns to the United States. Olson is one
of three JAG officers at the ILO who gives those briefings, mostly
conducted at the Soldier Readiness Center.
are several key areas to USERRA," Olson said. He started with,
"Soldiers will not be discriminated against because they are in
the military. They must provide ample written or verbal notification
to the employer they are going on active duty. Soldiers have the right
to get their former job back, and, if not the exact job, then a job
that is comparable in pay and employee status. The employer is
responsible for training the just-returned Soldier if the job is
different, changed or new."
for USERRA coverage include the Soldier providing documentation of
service, normally the DD-214 Report of Separation from Active Duty.
must have an honorable or general discharge. Bad conduct and
dishonorable discharges leave Soldiers ineligible for USERRA benefits.
also must report back to work with their former employer in a timely
manner. The Soldier must request reinstatement, a letter is O.K.,
within 14 days of separation from military service if that service was
31 days to 180 days in length. If the service was 181 or more days,
Soldiers must request reinstatement within 90 days. Also, military
service may not exceed five years per employer, although that does not
apply for mobilization.
JAG officers explain the protections of vacation time and pay, health
insurance coverage, pension protection and protection from subsequent
discharge, Olson said.
are limitations to USERRA’s protections, such as the returning
employee must be qualified to perform the job offered. The employer
must provide refresher training if needed. Also, USERRA protection may
be limited if the employer’s circumstances have significantly
changed, such as having gone out of business.
a Solder’s resources, beyond the ILO, are two Web sites — Employer
Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) http://www.esgr.org
and U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service
(Michele is a public
affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for
CONUS Support Base Services.)