Veterans can be a great resource. According to news and resource website Military.com, members and veterans of the U.S. armed forces can bring the following qualities to civilian workplaces:
- Loyalty to the team.
- Reliable work ethic.
- Extensive communication skills.
However, service members and veterans often face significant barriers to employment, including bias from corporate hiring managers. Employers should be aware that military personnel and veterans have employment protections under a variety of laws.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
This is a federal law that protects the employment rights of service members and veterans in civilian workplaces. USERRA applies to all employers, regardless of industry or size.
These are the basic provisions of USERRA:
- Employers cannot deny employment, reemployment, retention of employment, promotion or other types of employment benefits because of previous or current membership in the U.S. armed forces.
- Employers must provide leave of absence to employees who are required to perform military service.
- Upon returning from military duty and provided certain conditions are met, the employee is entitled to the job he or she would have gotten if he or she hadn’t been called to active duty. Typically, this means the employee must receive his or her old job back.
- While in military service, the employee has the right to continue his or her employer-based health insurance plan for up to two years, and to restart his or her health coverage upon reemployment.
- Employers must make “reasonable efforts” to train (or otherwise qualify) returning service members plus provide reasonable accommodations to veterans who incurred disabilities while on military duty.
- Service members must give their employers advance notice (verbally or in writing) of military duty — except in limited cases, such as when it’s impossible to give notice.
- Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the USERRA.
The Family and Medical Leave Act
The FMLA was amended in 2008 to allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for covered service members who are injured during active duty. This amendment also makes it easier for covered veterans to meet the definition of “serious illness or injury.”
The FMLA was amended again in 2010, this time to broaden military-related FMLA leave protections. Among other things, this amendment extends the FMLA’s qualifying exigency leave to employees who are the spouse or close family members of military persons.
The Fair Labor Standards Act
Your business is likely subject to the FLSA, which means your nonexempt employees, including service members and veterans, are likely entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay under federal law.
Things are a bit more complicated if you have exempt employees. Basically, you must ensure that service members and veterans meet the FLSA’s criteria for exempt status before classifying them as such. Also, the FLSA has specific rules for docking an exempt employee’s pay for temporary military leave and for determining whether the employee can use his or her paid time off to cover military-related absences.
Be sure to check state and local laws for military-related employment provisions that may apply to your business.