The goal of USERRA is to protect uniformed service members from their prior employers by eliminating any related job risks. After deployment, members of the U.S. uniformed services are entitled to return to their jobs. While this law is commonly known, you should still be aware that it does not protect you from job misconduct and does not cover all disputes that might arise with an employer. You can potentially be fired for reasons that are unrelated to your uniformed absence. Your legal rights are limited to how compliant your employer is with USERRA. Although you can be entitled to damages for lost wages, benefits, and Attorneys fees, you can’t seek punitive damages under USERRA laws. Before you file your USERRA claim, remember these steps:
Make Sure USERRA is Being Violated
Sometimes an employer’s violation might be due to their lack of awareness about USERRA guidelines. Many employers don’t know when they are breaking the law and will comply with USERRA once they have been notified of their error. The same can be said for service members. Check the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) website to be sure that the suspected violation is covered under USERRA.
Once you are sure that there has been a valid USERRA violation, you can talk to your employer about the issue at hand. The ESGR can mediate a remedy between you and your employer that will bring them into compliance with the law. About 95% of the ESGR’s requests for assistance are informally resolved.
You should get legal representation if your rights continue to be violated or if your employer refuses to cooperate with you. If you can’t find a lawyer to represent you or cannot afford one, you can file a complaint with the nearest Directors for Veterans’ Employment and Training (DVET) office. DVET advocates can help with your complaint. DVET employees have experience handling USERRA claims, but don’t have the same legal tools or ethical responsibilities as a private lawyer.
Still have questions about how to file a USERRA claim? Contact our federal employment team in the DC area to get started today. Let us use our 20+ years of experience to help you.