Uniformed Services Employment and
Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
18 Sep 2001
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights
Servicemember’s Information Paper
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights
Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a federal law that gives members and former members
U.S. armed forces (active and reserves) the right to go back to a civilian
job they held before military service.
Who gets USERRA protection? You probably qualify for USERRA
protection if you meet all five of these tests:
1. Job. Did you have a civilian job before you went on
active duty? All jobs are covered, unless your employer can prove the
job was truly a
temporary position. USERRA applies to all private employers, state governments,
and all branches of the federal government.
2. Notice. You (or a responsible officer from your military unit) must
give advance notice to your employer before leaving for active duty.
Notice can be oral or in writing, but you can best protect your rights
by sending a letter by certified mail or by having your employer sign
your copy of your letter, acknowledging receipt.
3. Duration. You can be gone from your civilian job for up to five years
(total). Any absences from your employer protected under the previous
law (VRRA) count towards your total. Most periodic and special Reserve
and National Guard training does not count towards your five-year total.
4. Character of service. If you are discharged, you must receive an honorable
or general discharge. This test does not apply if you remain in the reserve
component, but your employer can still require some proof from your unit
that your period of service was honorable. A letter from your commander
5. Prompt return to work. If you were gone up to 30 days, you must report
back to the first shift that begins after safe travel time from your
duty site plus eight hours to rest. If you were gone 31 to 180 days,
you must apply in writing for work within 14 days after completing military
service. If you were gone 181 days or more, you must apply in writing
for work within 90 days. Tell your employer you worked there before,
and you left for military service.
You are entitled to protections both while you are gone
and when you return to work.
1. Health insurance during service. If you ask for it, your employer
must continue to carry you and your family on the company health plan
for up to 30 days of service, at the normal cost to you. TRICARE does
not cover family members for tours of 30 days or less. You can get up
to 18 months of coverage, but your employer can pass on the full cost
(including the company’s share) to you.
2. Prompt reinstatement. You get your job back immediately if you were
gone 30 days or less. After longer service, you must get your job back
within a few days.
3. Status and seniority. For purposes of status, seniority, and most
pension rights (including pay rate), you are treated as if you never
left for military service. If your peers got promotions or raises while
you were gone, you do, too.
4. Training and other accommodations. Your employer must train you on
new equipment or techniques, refresh your skills, and accommodate any
5. Special protection against discharge other than for cause. If you
are fired within a protected period, your employer must prove the firing
wasn’t because of military service. Your protected period varies
with how long you were gone.
6. Immediate reinstatement of health benefits. You and your family may
chose to go back on the company health plan immediately when you return
to your civilian job. There can be no waiting period and no exclusion
of pre-existing conditions, other than for VA-determined service-connected
7. Antidiscrimination provision. USERRA prohibits discrimination based
on military service or military service obligation.
8. Other benefits. USERRA guarantees you certain rights. It does not
eliminate any other benefits you may have from state law, contract, or
collective bargaining agreement.
1. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
(ESGR), (800) 336-4590 or (703) 696-1400. ESGR provides ombudsmen who
mediate reemployment issues between military members and their civilian
employers. Their website, http://www.esgr.org, provides tips for reserve
members and employers.
2. The U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service
(VETS), (202) 219-9110. The Department of Labor is responsible for resolving
and/or investigating reemployment issues. Their website, www.dol.gov/dol/vets,
has a Non-Technical Resource Guide to USERRA.
3. Contact your legal assistance attorney. Remember, your military legal
assistance attorney may not act as your personal attorney in reemployment
4. USERRA gives you the right to sue your employer in federal court.
See 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-33. If your lawsuit is successful, you
may be able to recover court costs and attorney fees from your employer.
If you need additional information, contact USERRA online: