With more veterans returning from active duty service in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, employers are facing more reemployment claims. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), service members are entitled to reinstatement as if they never left for deployment.
That right includes seniority and allowance for promotions that would have occurred if they had not been deployed.
Recent case: Forrest Bagnall worked for the city of Sunrise as a project engineer and fleet manager. He was also an officer in the Army Reserve. He went on active duty for a little over four years. Then he informed the city he wanted to exercise his reemployment rights.
The city told him that it could offer him a different position. The new job paid less than Bagnall had earned when he deployed and had fewer responsibilities. For example, he would no longer supervise subordinates and would instead be assigned to another city office where his engineering skills would not be used.
Bagnall sued, alleging the new job did not comply with USERRA.
The court agreed. It said he was entitled to reinstatement to an equivalent job, along with any raises or promotions he would have earned if he had never left. (Bagnall v. City of Sunrise, No. 10-61299, SD FL, 2011)
Final note: What’s an equivalent job? One with the same opportunities for advancement, working conditions, job location, shift assignment, rank, responsibility and geographic location that the service member would have had if he or she never left.
If you need help figuring out your responsibilities under USERRA, check out the information available from the U.S. Department of Labor. Sign up for its free online “USERRA 101” course, which teaches the basics. Go to www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/ to register or read more.
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