The federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) says that if an employee's military-related absences last less than five years, you must reinstate the employee to his or her job or one with the same pay, perks, seniority and status. But that law does not, as a new case shows, require you to rehire people more than once for each period of active duty served.
Example: If employees' war injuries flare up and cause them to quit, they can't use USERRA as a tool to force you to rehire them a second time.
Recent case: Laurence Bowlds served in the military and his former employer, General Motors, rehired him after his discharge. A few years later, the lingering effects of a war injury forced him into disability retirement. His condition slowly improved to the point that he felt ready to return to work a second time.
This time, General Motors refused to reinstate him. He filed a USERRA lawsuit, alleging that he had a right to his job because his disability was the direct result of a wartime injury. But the court tossed out his lawsuit, saying USERRA gives people only one shot at reinstatement and then the employer's obligation ends. (Bowlds v. General Motors, No. 04-1907, 7th Cir., 2005)
Online resources: For more advice on complying with USERRA, go to the Labor Department site, www.dol.gov/vets, or www.esgr.org/employers.