Missouri Employment Law Attorneys

Military Personnel and Caregivers

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Riggan Law Firm represents military personnel who have been unlawfully denied a leave of absence from work to serve in the military or whose rights have been violated upon their return to civilian employment. The United States Congress passed a bill in 1994 named the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Act (USERRA), which requires that all employers not take actions to fire or demote military personnel because of their service or call to service. This is important for active duty personnel during times of war and military reservists during times of peace who need to fulfill monthly commitments.

When a service member leaves a civilian position to serve, they are protected from losing their jobs by unpaid job leave guarantees. These protections can last five years or longer, depending on the service that is being performed and the actions of their civilian duties. Misconduct in the military, including dishonorable or less-than-honorable discharges, may strip an employee of USERRA protection. If a service member is court martialed, has gone through a mast process, or has gone absent without leave (AWOL), then they may lose their civilian positions as well as their military service positions.

As long as a civilian employer receives notice of the military leave, it must provide reasonable accommodations to the service member. Persons seeking protection under USERRA must report back to their civilian employer with appropriate documentation within a specified time period after their military service concludes.

The required time period for reporting back to work depends on the length of the military leave, as follows:

  • Leave of 30 days or less - report by beginning of next regular shift
  • Leave of 31 to 180 days - apply for re-employment no later than 14 days following completion of service
  • Leave of more than 180 days - apply for re-employment no later than 90 days following completion of service

There are exceptions to these rules if reporting back to work was impossible or unreasonable, or if the service member has a disability.

Re-Employment Protected by USERRA

USERRA affords service members certain re-employment rights when they leave military service and seek to return to their pre-service civilian employment. The nature of those rights depends upon the length of military service. If the military service lasted 90 days or less, the employee is entitled to return to the position that he or she would have held if the employment had not been interrupted by military service, assuming the person is qualified for the position. If the person is not qualified for that position after reasonable efforts are made by the employer to ensure qualification, then the employee is entitled to the position that he or she held at the time the military service began.

If the military service lasted more than 90 days, the employee is entitled to return to the position that he or she would have held if the employment had not been interrupted by military service, or a position of similar status, seniority, and pay, assuming the employee is qualified). If the person is not qualified for that position after reasonable efforts are made by the employer to ensure qualification, the employee is entitled to the position that he or she held at the time military service began or a position of similar status, seniority, and pay.

There are special situations in which an employer is not required to re-employ a returning service member under USERRA. An employer is excused from USERRA's re-employment obligations if it can show one of the following:

  • Changes in circumstances that make re-employment unreasonable or impossible
  • Re-employment of the service member would impose an undue hardship on the employer
  • The service member was only employed for a brief or non-recurrent period

In addition to providing leave and re-employment rights for military personnel, USERRA also affords certain job protections even after a service member is re-employed. Absent good cause - meaning, unless an employee engages in misconduct - an employer may not terminate a returning service member's employment for 6 months if the service leave was between 31 and 180 days. For leave of more than 180 days, the anti-termination provision is extended to a year.

Leave for Caregivers of Military Personnel

If you are a family member or other person close to a military service member who is serving as a caregiver to that service member, then you may be eligible for caregiver leave. Under federal law, employers must provide military caregiver leave to eligible employees to care for covered, active service members who have incurred serious illness or injury in the line of duty.

These service members must be receiving treatment, undergoing therapy, in recovery, or otherwise in outpatient status or on the temporary disability retired list, not the permanent disability retired list. Leave time is limited. If you need to request leave to care for a service member in your family, or if you have been denied such a request, consult an attorney to learn about your options.

Retain Riggan Law Firm in Missouri or Illinois

If you or a loved one is a service member and are seeking leave from or returning to civilian employment, you may need an employment lawyer to advise you of your leave entitlements or other rights under federal and / or state law. Likewise, if you are a service member that has been denied re-employment or benefits or terminated because of your military leave of absence, you may need counsel to represent you in a dispute.

If you need legal counsel to help you understand your rights, or if you believe your rights have been violated, do not hesitate to contact Riggan Law Firm as soon as possible.

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