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Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans Are Protected Class Under USERRA

When people think of a “protected class,” they often think of age, race, gender, or disability. While those are some of the classes protected by anti-discrimination laws, often-overlooked classes include honorably discharged veterans and active-duty service members.

The United States Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that was passed in 1994. Originally, it was passed to protect those veterans that served in the Vietnam War from discriminatory employment practices. Now, it serves to protect all honorably discharged veterans and active-duty uniformed service members from discrimination in their employment. Accordingly, USERRA is supposed to be broadly construed in favor of service members.

USERRA applies to all members of the Armed Forces, Reserves, the National Guard, and other “Uniformed Services” (including the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service). USERRA applies to both public and private employers. In other words, if you are a veteran that was honorably discharged OR an active-duty member of any of those agencies, you are afforded the protections of USERRA.

The protections provided by USERRA are broad. USERRA includes the following protections:

  • USERRA prohibits an employer from discriminating against a person because of their active military service.
  • USERAA prohibits an employer from retaliating against a person because they have engaged in “protected activity” (including testifying, participating in a USERRA investigation, attempting to enforce a USERRA protection, or exercising a right afforded under USERRA)
  • USERRA requires prompt re-employment of service members if the service member is deployed or otherwise called away by the military for training or other service.
  • USERRA prohibits discrimination in employment because of past military service (i.e., veterans).

There are many complexities and nuances to USERRA. Employees can learn more by contacting an experienced employment attorney or by reviewing the resources provided by the Department of Labor.

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