The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act was enacted into law on October 13, 1994. This law clarifies and expands upon the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights Act. It provides that an individual has the right to return to work following a leave for uniformed service.
In order to be entitled to reemployment: 1) the employer must receive notice of the impending service from the employee or uniformed service; 2) such service leave may not exceed five years (subject to some exceptions which allow for a longer service leave); and 3) the individual must report or reapply to the employer in a timely manner following the service. What is considered a timely reporting or reapplication depends upon the length of the leave and whether the individual has been injured or has incurred an illness while in the uniformed service.
Upon returning from a leave of at least 30 days but less than 180 days, an employee may not be discharged without just cause for a period of 180 days. If the leave was greater than 180 days, the returning employee may not be discharged without just cause for one year.
Seniority-related benefits decisions must take into account and include the period of time that an employee is on such military leave. This type of leave will also trigger the employee’s rights to COBRA continuation notice for medical and life insurance coverage. In addition, the returning employee has certain rights regarding pension plan contributions and participation. Any rights that a returning veteran may have under state law, local law, collective bargaining agreements, personnel policies or otherwise that are more beneficial than those provided for in the federal law will continue to apply.