Maxwell AFB, AL --
Since 9/11, Reserve and National Guard servicemembers saw a dramatic increase in their mobilization and deployment. As citizen-warriors, these Guard and Reserve military members have other jobs to worry about, their civilian jobs. So what happens to those civilian jobs after members gets back from a 6-month or yearlong deployment?
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal statute that protects the jobs of servicemembers and veterans. Specifically, USERRA requires private employers to put individuals back into their civilian jobs after they return from a mobilization, regardless of whether the mobilization was voluntary or involuntary. In fact, former employers must also give servicemembers the benefits and seniority they would have received if they had not been activated.
USERRA also protects servicemembers from discrimination in the workplace based on their military status. For example, an Army Reservist named Vincent Staub was fired from his civilian job in 2004, and he argued that his employer fired him because they knew he was in the Reserves, and therefore subject to long periods of absence. He sued his employer and originally won, but the decision was overruled by an appellate court. For the first time ever, a USERRA case will be heard by the US Supreme Court. In April, the highest court in the land agreed to hear Vincent Staub's case.
If you believe your rights have been violated you should file an official complaint with the Department of Labor. You can reach them at 1-866-4-USA-DOL, or http://www.dol.gov/vets
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) may also be able to help, and they have some good information on their website: http://www.esgr.org/Site/Home/tabid/55/Default.aspx
You can also contact your local legal assistance attorney by visiting the AF legal assistance website and viewing the legal services locator: https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil/