Guard & Reserve – Assistance for You and Your Employer

Step-by-Step Guide to Employment: Guard and Reserve – Assistance for You and Your Employer

After you find that perfect job, you might wonder how being a guard or reserve member will fit into your civilian career. What are your responsibilities and what are your employer’s responsibilities? What assistance is there out there for both of you?

The good news is that ESGR ( Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve) is there to help. They are a Department of Defense office that was started in 1972 in order to promote cooperation and understanding between service members in the Reserve Component of the military and their civilian employers. They have partnered with the Department of Labor to offer FAQs concerning USERRA. USERRA (The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) protects the civilian employment of active and reserve military personnel in the United States when called to active duty.

Is there protection from discrimination?

The #1 question many guard and reserve members have is about what protection there is when it comes to discrimination of an employee based on past or present military service. According to USERRA, an employee must not deny initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to an individual on the basis of their military service. There are other protections against an employer retaliating against you because of your service. So yes, within the USERRA, there are many protections having to do with being discriminated against because of your military service.

What do I have to do as an employee in order to be eligible for these protections under USERRA?

As an employee, you want to make sure you are giving your employer as much advance notice as possible for your drill and other service dates. Give your employer your drill schedule when it comes out and update them on any changes as you get them.

You also need to return to your job from military service in a timely manner. USERRA has some guidelines for returning to work. If you are gone between 1-30 days, you need to go back to work the next scheduled day after your service ends. That means if you get back on a Sunday night, you should be at work Monday morning. If you are gone between 31-180 days, you will have 14 days after you return, and with 181+ days, you would have 90 days to return to work. This will give you time after a longer period of service.

Can employers contact your chain of command?

Yes, military departments are required to verify periods of service if an employer requests that information. Employers can and do reach out to your chain of command if need be under USERRA.

Is there a limit to the total amount of time I could be away for military service?

Yes, there is actually a length of time you can be away for military service and still retain your reemployment rights. You have up to five cumulative years of military service. Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you as the employee are unable to obtain orders releasing you from service before the expiration date of the five-year period, and there is nothing you can do about it, that could qualify for an exception.

Does USERRA cover independent contractors?

Unfortunately, USERRA does not cover independent contractors. If you are one, you would need to make sure you are able to work something out with who you are currently working for.

On the ESGR page, you can also find sample letters to tell your employer about upcoming military service, checklists, and everything you need to know about USERRA and what that means for you in your civilian job.

Employers can also use ESGR as they have resources such as an Employer Resource Guide to help understand the law and what USERRA entails.