Workplace Discrimination and Military Service

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Although currently there is no plan for American soldiers to be sent to Ukraine, the U.S. has deployed thousands of troops throughout Europe, both before and during Russia’s invasion of that country. According to President Biden, those troops are not there to fight Russians, but “to defend our NATO allies.”

Military service in America is voluntary, with all able-bodied males aged 18-25 required to register with the Selective Service, meaning they could be drafted into if needed. By contrast, in Russia military service is mandatory for all male citizens aged 18-27; annually more than 250,000 Russian men are conscripted for one year of active duty service in the armed forces.

More than 1.1 million people serve in the U.S. military reserves, including the National Guard, comprising over 45% of the total U.S. military force. That means there is a reasonably good chance that one or more of your employees or job applicants will be protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

What is USERRA?

This federal law, passed in 1994, protects military service members and veterans from employment discrimination on the basis of their service and allows them to regain their civilian jobs following a period of uniformed service. It applies to all employers, both the public and private sectors.

How does USERRA affect employers?

  • Employers may not discriminate against job seekers or employees because of past, present, or future uniformed service. This protection extends to the hiring process, promotions, salary increases, job assignments, training programs, etc.
  • Employers may not terminate or otherwise penalize an employee because he or she is called to active duty, training or mandatory drills.
  • Employers must reinstate an employee returning from military service to a job position comparable to what he or she previously held, at a comparable pay rate including any increases that would have been received and with the same benefits the employee had before military service.

What does USERRA not require of employers?

  • Employers are not required to pay employees while they are on active duty unless the employee opts to use accrued leave. Employers may not require employees to use accrued leave.
  • Employers are not required to reinstate an employee if the business has significantly downsized or is going out of business.
  • Employers are not required to reinstate an employee who sustained an injury that would create an undue hardship on the employer if he or she was re-employed. Employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate injured service members.

Voluntary service members may also be called to duty during natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods or tornadoes. That is why understanding the legal rights and responsibilities of military service by employees is important for all business owners. 

An HR professional can help business owners navigate workplace challenges. 

From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.

For more information about our accounting and human resource services, contact Next Level Solutions at info@nextlevelsol.net or (225) 330-8347.