By Debbie Gregory.
The Missouri National Guard has reached a settlement with the Department of Justice regarding policies that allegedly violated the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, members of the National Guard and Reserve who have been called to active duty have rights with respect to the retirement and health benefits provided by their private-sector employers as they prepare to be deployed. USERRA laws protect the civilian job rights and benefits for Veterans and service members. These laws stipulate that returning service-members must be promptly reemployed in the same position that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority.
The case in Missouri affects 138 civilian National Guard technicians. The largest case was that of an Army sergeant who was forced to quit her job as a civilian National Guard technician as a condition of being called to active duty under the Active Guard Reserve program. The sergeant was forced to forfeit paid military leave that she would otherwise have been entitled to.
As part of the settlement, the Missouri National Guard agreed to pay the sergeant for thirty days of military leave. The other 137 technicians who were named in the case received 15 days of paid leave. One stipulation of the settlement notes that there is no admission by the Missouri National Guard of any wrongdoing or violation of any federal or state law or regulation.
This case is important to note because of its irony. USERRA laws were created to protect members of the National Guard and Reserves. And in this case, the law sought to defend the employment rights of the service members, not against a civilian employer, but against a service component. While the Missouri National Guard contends that it did no wrong, and surely we can all agree that it didn’t actively seek to violate any of its members’ rights, this incident is a prime example of how and why Veterans and service members need to be aware of their rights under USERRA.
For more information on USERRA, or to sign up for USERRA 101, please visit www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/index.htm
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Military Connection: Members of National Guard Win USERRA Settlement: By Debbie Gregory