As a member of the National Guard, you have a foot in both the military and the civilian worlds. The information and resources in this guide can help you navigate your roles with the Guard and in the civilian workplace.
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The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act provides that an employer must give you time off to perform military service and reemploy you following the service with status, seniority and rate of pay as though you never left.How does USERRA protect me?
The law ensures that you are:
Who is eligible for protection under USERRA?
- Not disadvantaged in your civilian career because of your service
- Promptly reemployed in your civilian job upon your return from duty
- Not discriminated against in employment based on past, present or future military service
Protection applies to employees who are full time, part time or probationary. If you’ve been absent from your civilian job due to serving in the National Guard, you need to meet the following criteria to be eligible for protection:
Which employers does USERRA cover?
- Your employer had advance notice of your service.
- You have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services in your employment relationship with your employer.
- You return to work or apply for reemployment in a timely manner after your service is ended.
- You have not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge or under other than honorable conditions.
USERRA applies to all public and private employers in the United States, regardless of size. USERRA also applies to foreign employers doing business in the United States and American companies operating in foreign countries, unless compliance would violate the law of the foreign country in which the workplace is located.
Independent contractors are not protected by USERRA.What kind of discrimination does USERRA protect against?
USERRA protects service members from being denied initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion or any employment benefit because of their relationship with the military.
Learn more about USERRA, including your rights as an employee and how to file a complaint by visiting the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
See Frequently Asked Questions About the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act for more answers to your questions.
Civilian Employment Information
Members of the Guard and reserve are required to submit information about their civilian employer and job skills each year. This allows the Defense Department to:
- Give consideration to civilian employment necessary to maintain national health, safety and interest when considering members for recall.
- Ensure that members with critical civilian skills are not retained in numbers beyond those needed for those skills.
- Inform employers of reservists of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
You can submit your CEI annually during readiness processing or records reviews. Failing to provide the required information could subject you to administrative or punitive action and adversely impact your local community.
Employment limitations and employer rights
Your employer should always treat you fairly, but there are certain limitations you should be aware of, especially with regard to your absence from the workplace.Know your rights under federal law
Federal law guarantees you the right to take time off from work to attend to your military responsibilities. The more that you, your boss and your personnel office know about the federal laws and legal precedents that spell out laws protecting reserve reemployment rights, the less chance there is for misunderstanding.Handling your timesheet
If you miss work while you perform military service, your employer is not obligated to reschedule you to make up the time lost. However, if employees who miss work for nonmilitary reasons are afforded opportunities to make up the time lost, you must be treated in the same manner. You cannot be required to find a replacement worker for the shifts you will miss as a condition of being given the time off by your employer to perform military service.Using your vacation leave
Federal law allows you the option to use earned vacation while performing military service, but you cannot be required to do so. The only case where you could be required to use your vacation would be if your company has a planned shutdown period when everyone must take vacation, and your military service coincides with that period of time.Accruing vacation leave
Your employer is not required to provide for vacation accrual while you are absent from work performing military service unless accrual is permitted for employees on nonmilitary leave of absence of similar length.Tracking your pay
Although some private and government employers provide full or partial civilian pay to employees absent on military duty — usually for a limited period of time — the law requires only an unpaid leave of absence.
Ways to navigate civilian employment and military service
In addition to knowing your and your employer’s rights, balancing your civilian and military careers requires open communication and insight into how your military experiences affect you, your employer and your coworkers. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Be open with your boss about your National Guard service.
- Give advance notice of any drills, trainings and extra time-off requirements that may interfere with your civilian job.
- When schedule changes occur, notify your employer as soon as you know about them so your boss can make plans to accommodate your absence.
- Anticipate changes in yourself after deployment or serving in a disaster relief mission. You may notice the following after returning to your civilian job:
- The pace of work may seem slower in comparison to your military duties. It is easy to misinterpret this as your coworkers being lazy or not caring. Remember, it is probably you who has changed, not them. Try not to judge, criticize or make assumptions.
- You may feel fatigued, even with what seems like sufficient sleep. This may be a result of chronic stress or needing more rest than you realize. See a doctor if chronic fatigue persists.
- You may feel cynical by what you witnessed during duty, or dissatisfied with the routine of work. Most work does not provide the dramatic and immediate reinforcement, of say, responding to a disaster. Work may seem to lack meaning and satisfaction. Counter these feelings by incorporating the positive things you learned during your deployment into your personal and professional life.
- You may be emotional. Sometimes the combination of intense experiences, fatigue and stress leaves you especially vulnerable to unexpected emotions. You may cry easily, be quick to anger, or experience dramatic mood swings. These are normal reactions that typically subside over time. In the meantime, be aware of your reactions, discuss your experiences, and avoid making comments that might be hurtful or upsetting to others.
- Coworkers and supervisors may resent that they had to take on more work because of your absence. Let them know you appreciate their support during your deployment.
If you are experiencing distress or other employment difficulties, there are programs and services to help you cope.
Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a Defense Department-wide effort to promote the well-being of National Guard and reserve members, their families and communities, by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle.
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