One of your staffers just told you that he’ll need time off military duty, and you know you have certain obligations under the law to accommodate his request.
But what exactly are your legal responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)?
First, recognize the types of service requests that trigger USERRA. Workers are eligible for protection when they need time off for active military duty, military training, inactive duty training, National Guard duty, fitness-for-duty exams, funeral-honors duty, and training or duty for the National Medical Disaster Medical System.
If the servicemember’s request meets one of these requirements, you have to accommodate him under USERRA. The law applies to all employers, and the person doesn’t need to have been with your organization for any length of time to qualify for coverage.
Although employees are required to provide notice of impending military service, the notice can be either oral or written, and there’s no advance time requirement for notification, e.g., the worker could tell you on Friday that he’s leaving for military duty on Monday.
While the staffer doesn’t have to be paid while he’s on military duty, he must continue to receive benefits. And military service is counted as accrued work time when it comes to paid time off and seniority.
You’re also obligated to hold the crew member’s job open for as long as possible while he’s on military duty. Plus, he has to be returned to the same position, or to a comparable job with similar compensation and benefits.
Bonus: Proceed cautiously before firing someone who’s just returned from military duty. The staffer will have a strong case under USERRA if he’s dismissed right after he comes back from military duty, no matter the reason for the termination.
(From the May 14, 2021, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)