Workplace protections exist for Veterans under USERRA

One of the oldest laws protecting workers was enacted by Congress first in 1940 to recognize the service of our Veterans and to offer them protection in the workplace.  This federal law is entitled the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”).  California has enacted its own statutes also protecting the rights of Veterans.


* Returning Veterans must be re-employed into the job they would have attained had they not been absent for military service.  This is known as the “escalator principle.”  It means that if the Veteran would have achieved greater seniority, status or pay if he or she remained in the workplace, the returning Veteran is entitled to that greater seniority or status and pay upon return.

* Employers may not discriminate against Veterans.

* USERRA protects the employment of employees who take up to five years of cumulative military leave with the same employer. But there are many exceptions to the five-year rule, which allow the protection to last longer.

* Employers must protect disabled Veterans.  Employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate disabilities.

* Veterans convalescing from injuries received during service are allowed up to two years to return to their jobs and re-apply for employment.

* USERRA requires reasonable efforts by the employer to ensure these rights.

* The law is interpreted and applied broadly to protect Veterans’ rights.

* USERRA protects pension and health and welfare rights. 

* The Veteran has a limited amount of time depending on the length of service to reapply for work after being released from service.  Make sure you or returning Veterans you know apply promptly.

* The Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) also provides protection to family members who need to take “exigency leave” up to 12 weeks because a family member is going into active service.  Exigency leave also applies in limited circumstances when the Veteran returns.

* FMLA also allows family members to take up to 26 weeks off to care for an injured Veteran when the Veteran returns from active duty.

If Veterans or their families have any problems with respect to Veterans’ workplace issues, please contact your Union or legal representative. 

By David Rosenfeld | September 24, 2013

Legal Developments