USERRA (quick, name that acronym, answer down below) is a oft-misunderstood federal statute that addresses employment issues for reservists and active duty members of the armed forces.
A recent Second Circuit decision (Hart v. Family Dental Group, decided May 31, 2011), arising from a federal court filing in Connecticut demonstrates the difficulties employers may have in understanding the provisions.
For example, one of the USERRA provisions provides substantial protection to returning reservists. First, the employee — upon return — must be treated as if he or she never left. In addition, when an employee returns from his or her military obligations, the employer cannot fire that person for 180 days without cause.
In Hart, the employer gave the employee just 60 days notice when the employee returned, which later changed to 30 days. After a complaint was filed with the Department of Labor, the employer agreed to keep the employee on for 180 days. But after 180 days, the employee was terminated.
The Second Circuit found that the employer did all that it was required and that USERRA did not offer additional protection.
I’ve previously discussed USERRA at length in prior posts and for employers who have employees in this situation, this case is a reminder that the details of USERRA are worth reviewing.
And what does USERRA stand for? Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. But you already knew that, right?