We’d all like to think we’re patriots, and it’s easy enough to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” or observe a moment of silence in memory of military veterans.

But patriotism gets a little tougher when a key employee tells you he or she has to miss two weeks — or two years, for that matter – on military duty.

Thing is, you really, really need the person around in the next couple of weeks. It’s your busiest season, and you think, “I just can’t spare her.”

Without prejudice
Well, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, you’ll probably have to! And if you fall afoul of USERRA by violating employees’ rights to do their military service without prejudice to their civilian jobs, you’re putting your organization in legal jeopardy.

Here’s one way you might unwittingly violate USERRA: Think back to that key employee you feel you can’t spare. You don’t want to flat out refuse her request for leave to carry out her military obligation, but you want to challenge her and see if it’s really necessary.

So you tell her she’s got to bring you written notice of the service from her military unit before you’ll let her go.

Uh-oh. That’s a violation. Under USERRA, the employee can give notice orally or in writing. You can’t insist on the latter. Nor can you insist on employees giving notice a specific amount of time before their scheduled service. The law says only that employees must notify their employers of the need for military leave as soon as possible.

USERRA also covers such matters as:

  • Hiring of people with military obligations
  • Job opportunities and promotions for employees with military obligations
  • The right – and wrong – ways of reinstating employees returning from military duty
  • Discrimination by co-workers against employees with military obligations
  • What you can and can’t expect of employees leaving for or returning from military duty

So when you’ve got a minute, read up on this law — which still isn’t as well known or understood as employment legislation like FMLA, the ADA and the laws against race and sex discrimination.

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