Military Personnel and Veterans in the Workplace

Returning from Active Duty and Back to a 9-5 Lifestyle: What Are Your Rights?

Finding a new job can be stressful enough, but as a veteran returning to civilian life or as a reservist looking for a new job after honoring his or her commitment, it is important to know the rights that you are entitled to in the workplace.

Despite the “We Support Our Troops,” signs, banners and slogans we see across the country, the unfortunate truth is that some employers discriminate against veterans and active military personnel in their hiring and employment process. Employers have historically found ways to preclude veterans by stating “we are not hiring,” “you lack the necessary experience,” and “unfortunately your job has been eliminated.” In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment report illustrated that Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans had an unemployment rate of 10.01%, in contrast to the civilian unemployment rate of 6.8 %.[1] This number almost doubles when you look at the figures for female veterans. This glaring discrepancy caused the U.S. government and California law makers to jump into action and re-enforce the rights of military personnel in the workplace.

            USERRA

In 1994, the U.S. government enacted a federal law called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (“USERRA”). Since 1994 the law has been revised to ensure that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of military status or military obligation (such as one weekend a month for reservists).[2] It also protects the re-employment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the uniformed forces. [3]

Under the USERRA, the requirements to receive a leave for military service are relatively easy to achieve. The requirements include that 1) the cumulative leave must not exceed 5 years, 2) the employee must have provided proper advance notice to the employer of the leave, and 3) the employee must report back to the work or submit an application for re-employment within the statutory time frame as determined by the length of the employee’s military service.[4]

Furthermore, the act also states that employers must make “reasonable efforts” to help a veteran (who is returning to employment) to become qualified to perform the duties of his or her post.[5] This includes but is not limited to training, family medical leave, and disability benefits.

California Military and Veteran’s Code §394

The California Military and Veteran’s Code §394 (“CMVC”), is the California version of the USERRA.[6] The CMVC assures that in the State of California, active military and veterans will receive the benefits they are entitled to under the USERRA. Therefore, with the implication of the CMVC, California employers are barred from discriminating against military personnel and must provide any and all benefits they and their families are entitled to.

One extraordinary example of benefits provided to military personnel and their family is the Family Military Leave Act.[7] This act provided employees who are spouses of service members and who work at least 20 hours a week for an employer (with at least 25 employees) with up to 10 days of unpaid leave when the service member is temporarily home from deployment.[8]

FEHA Adds “Military and Veterans” as a Protected Class

Moreover, just in case the two prior acts were not comprehensive enough, in October of 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a revision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”)[9] adding “active military and veterans” as one of the protected class of individuals whom employers cannot discriminate against (i.e. religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy etc.).[10] This now means that an employer cannot discriminate against any potential job candidates or discriminate against any current employees based on their military or veteran status.

The purpose behind these important laws is to safeguard active and veteran servicemen and women from experiencing negative repercussions as a result of their sacrifice for our country. There is a growing belief among lawmakers that individuals should not be penalized for placing their personal career goals on hold to protect our national security.

Lawyer Contacts

If you believe your rights have been violated by an employer, or wish to educate or defend yourself as an employer, do not wait to contact an attorney. An experience employment law attorney at Brown & Lipinsky LLP can explain your available options and help you understand your rights. Our experienced San Bernardino and Riverside employment lawyers have the necessary knowledge and skill to evaluate your case and provide you with the answers you need to protect your rights. Contact our Chino Hills, California, office today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced labor and employment litigation attorneys.

We are proud to represent the Inland Empire, including Adelanto, Angelus Oaks, Apple Valley, Azusa, Banning, Barstow, Beaumont, Big Bear Lake, Bloomington, Blythe, Calimesa, Canyon Lake, Cathedral City, Chino, Chino Hills, Claremont, Coachella, Colton, Corona, Covina, Crafton, Crestline, Desert Hot Springs, Diamond Bar, Fontana, Glendora, Grand Terrace, Hemet, Hesperia, Highland, Indian Wells, Indio, Joshua Tree, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, La Verne, Loma Linda, Lucerne Valley, Mentone, Montclair, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Needles, Norco, Ontario, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Perris, Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Rancho Mirage, Redlands, Riverside, Running Springs, San Bernardino, San Dimas, San Jacinto, Temcula, Twentynine Palms, Upland, Victorville, Walnut, West Covina, Wildomar, Wrightwood, Yucaipa, and Yucca Valley.

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[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Status of Gulf War-era II., http://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2013/veterans.

[2] 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301-4335

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Mil. & Vet. Code §394

[7] Mil. &Vet. Code §395

[8] Id.

[9] Cal. Gov. Code §12940, 12945, 12945.2

[10] Id.

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