The United States Department of Labor Veterans (DOL) released a Fact Sheet outlining a series of questions on compliance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This article highlights key takeaways from the guidance released:
USERRA is a federal law that provides certain employment rights to active military personnel and reservists called to active duty. Returning service members have a right to re-employment under USERRA and it requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to five (5) years of unpaid leave that also maintains the employee’s seniority, healthcare and pension benefits.
DOL Reminds Employers of USERRA Compliance During the Pandemic
While the Fact Sheet released does not create any additional rights under USERRA, it reminds employers of the importance of compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the DOL reminds employers of the following scenarios that may arise during the pandemic:
- Members of the National Guard or Reserves called to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are covered under USERRA;
- If it is reasonably certain that an employee servicemember would have been furloughed or laid off had they not been absent for uniformed service, the employee can be laid off or furloughed upon return from military service;
- An employer may not delay reemployment of a returning servicemember if they satisfy the prerequisites for reemployment, out of concern of possible exposure to COVID-19 during their service;
- When reemploying a service member who may have been exposed to COVID-19, an employer must take reasonable efforts in order to return the employee to their position. This may include temporary paid leave, remote work, or another position during a period of quarantine;
- A returning service member should be promptly reemployed. Promptness generally depends on the time the employee was away and can range from the next day after retuning from duty to up to fourteen (14) days.
Important USERRA-related resources and compliance assistance materials for employees and employers are available through the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service website. The Fact Sheet also includes a toll-free information and helpline, available 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487- 2365).
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