Discussing USERRA Laws, Natural Disasters and the Effects on your Business | Colony West
November 22, 2019

Discussing USERRA Laws, Natural Disasters and the Effects on your Business

Catastrophe Insurance/By Colony West/0 comments

What are USERRA Laws?

In 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) in an effort to update the laws around military leave to coincide with modern workplace laws. Essentially the statute, under certain conditions, requires that service members are protected from workplace discrimination based on their military service in addition to requiring employers to put these individuals back in their civilian jobs after service. The law calls for three separate employer obligations:

 

  1. Discrimination Prevention
  2. Benefits continuation while on leave
  3. Right to reemployment

 

While USERRA is similar in some instances to the Family Medical Leave Act and Cobra, it can be daunting for employers to put an employee back to work in their exact position, pay and benefits after an extended leave of absence. While the law does right by our service members, organizations must make sure they are within compliance in all aspects of the statue.

 

How USERRA relates to Natural Disasters

With the passing of the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act in 2002, USERRA’s protections have extended from service members to certain federal emergency workers and intermittent disaster response appointees with the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) who are tasked in assisting with natural disasters. Programs that are covered include:

 

  • Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT)
  • Veterinary Medical Assistance Team (VMAT)
  • Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT)
  • National Pharmacy Response Team (NPRT)
  • National Nurse Response Team (NNRT)
  • Public Health Service (PHS)

 

Employees that serve in any of these programs fall into the category of “uniformed services” during a national emergency and are entitled to the same protections that military members receive under USERRA.

 

Is your business in compliance?

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), “You have the right to be reemployed in your civilian job if your leave that job to perform service in the uniformed service and:

 

  • You ensure that your employer receives advanced written or verbal notice of your service
  • You have five years or less of cumulative service in the uniformed services while with that particular employer
  • You return to work or apply for employment in a timely manner after conclusion of service
  • You have not been separate form service with a disqualifying discharge or under other than honorable conditions.
  • If you are eligible to be reemployed, you must be restored to the job and benefits you would have attained if you had not been absent due to military service or, in some cases, a comparable job.”

 

Where the statue gets tricky is with the state and local governments. There are instances where an employee is hired by the state, not NDMS, to serve during natural disasters. A close look at the state law will help you determine how best to following the USERRA statue. Additionally, USERRA does not protect National Guard members while they are on state active duty but many states have their own laws that extend protections to the National Guard. It is important to understand the states laws for each of your organization’s locations to ensure you are within compliance.

 

Whether it be USERRA, Human Resources or basic state labor laws, Colony West has a long history of ensuring compliance for our clients. Don’t waste time and energy worrying about how local, state and federal laws affect your organization. Reach out to us today for a consultation to see how we can best serve you.