The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state, District of Columbia, and territory (e.g., Guam) National Guards.
USERRA has requirements for reemploying veterans with and without service-connected disabilities and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The Department of Labor also provides a USERRA Advisor to help understand employee eligibility, employer obligations, benefits, and remedies under the Act.
USERRA protections fall under 3 broad categories:
Reemployment rights: You have the right to reemployment in your civilian job as long as certain conditions are met, including proper notice to your employer prior to service and prompt return to your civilian position after service is complete.
Protections from Discrimination & Retaliation: Affiliation with uniformed services cannot prevent you from employment, reemployment, promotion, retention, or other employment benefits.
Health Insurance Protection: You have the right to elect to continue your existing employer-based health plan coverage for you and your dependents for up to 24 months while in the military or to be reinstated to that health plan upon return.
USERRA and The Difference from the ADA - Reasonable Accommodation
While the ADA requires employers to make certain adjustments for veterans with disabilities called "reasonable accommodations," USERRA requires employers to go further than the ADA by making reasonable efforts to assist a veteran who is returning to employment.
If, the veteran has a disability incurred in, or aggravated during, his or her service, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and return the veteran to the position in which he or she would have been employed if the veteran had not performed military service.
If the veteran is not qualified for that position due to disability, USERRA requires the employer to make reasonable efforts to help qualify the veteran for a job of equivalent seniority, status, and pay, the duties of which he or she is qualified to perform or could become qualified to perform. This could include providing training or retraining for the position at no cost for the veteran.