If you have military reservists on staff, you can call them to work right after they return from their weekend duty or other service obligations. Contrary to what you may have heard, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) doesn't mandate that you give returning reservists an eight-hour rest period.
USERRA does set time limits within which employees must notify you of their intent to return to work. In the case of weekend reservist duty, employees have eight hours after the duty ends. But USERRA doesn't prevent you from returning an employee to work sooner, nor does it imply a mandatory rest period.
As long as the employee is given job-protected leave for his or her service, employers can require that he or she report back right away. Still, use common sense when making such scheduling decisions. While the employer in the following case didn't violate USERRA, it still exercised bad judgment.
Recent case: On his way home from weekend reservist duty, Willie Gordon stopped by the grocery store where he worked to pick up his paycheck. His manager ordered him to work the night shift and threatened to fire him if he didn't. So Gordon stayed and worked the shift. On his way home, he fell asleep at the wheel, crashed his car and died.
His mother sued, alleging that Gordon was denied his USERRA rights to an eight-hour rest period after his reservist service.
A federal appeals court said USERRA doesn't offer this right. The law's language "sets forth a returning employee's requirement for providing notice of intent to return to work in order to reclaim his or her former job," the court said. And the eight-hour period marks the outer limit of time the employee must report. (Gordon v. Wawa Inc., No. 03-3089, 3rd Cir., 2004)
For more advice on complying with USERRA, subscribers can download our free report,Laws: An Employer's Guide, at www.hrspecialist.net/firing.