Reemployment rights for service members
You have the responsibility to properly reemploy service members.
Employees who are part of the uniformed service have certain obligations to serve the United States. When employees in the uniformed services return from duty, they have to readjust to civilian life at home and work. As an employer, your leadership is crucial to helping our nation’s veterans and their families navigate this transition smoothly.
You’re required to reemploy a service member who leaves a civilian job to perform military service in that job upon return from deployment, as long as he or she meets the eligibility requirements. To qualify, the service member must have:
- left civilian employment to perform covered military service,
- provided advance notice (oral or written),
- not exceeded the five-year cumulative service limit for certain types of service,
- returned to work within certain time limits, which depend on the duration of his or her military service, and
- not received a disqualifying discharge.
You have the right to request documentation to verify eligibility from your employee if he or she has been absent for more than 30 days, but you can’t require specific types of documentation. You’re still required to reemploy the service member while the documentation is being made available.
In general, you’re required to reemploy service member employees as if they had been continuously employed during the period of service. They generally get the job they would have been in as though they never deployed but were at work the whole time (also known as the “escalator provision”). In some situations, this may be a promoted position; in others it may be a layoff position. This also includes giving returning service members the seniority they would have accrued, and the status, promotions, pension benefits, and pay raises they would have attained with reasonable certainty but for their period of military service.
You must make reasonable efforts to qualify a returning service member for the reemployment position by providing the training necessary to update a returning employee’s skills. If your employee incurred or aggravated a disability during their military service, you must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and help your employee become qualified to perform his or her job. The law specifies the type of positions the returning service member should be placed into should the returning service member not be qualified for the escalator position.
If you don’t promptly reemploy a service member employee, he or she has the right to file a complaint and participate in an investigation without experiencing retaliation. It’s not always obvious when a situation can be considered improper reemployment under the law. It’s in your best interest as an employer to familiarize yourself with the law and contact the Federal Government if you have questions.
Questions? We’re here to help.
We are committed to helping you understand your responsibilities as an employer. Many questions about your responsibilities towards veteran and service member employees may be answered by using the following elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisor:
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) enforces USERRA and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). These agencies work together as appropriate to ensure fair treatment for America’s service members and veterans.
For additional assistance, please contact:
- VETS: 1-866-4-USA-DOL or your local VETS office
- OFCCP: 1-800-397-6251 (TTY 1-877-889-5627) or the OFCCP Help Desk