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What employment rights do members of the military have?

Residents in Oklahoma might have heard about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which serves to protect employees who have to leave work for a certain length of time due to illness, pregnancy or other specific reasons. This form of employee protection helps several employees in the state, and some might question if there are other programs that could benefit employees as well.

A less-well known, but just as important federal law is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This statute protects individuals who have to leave work to serve in the military, or, in some circumstances, those who have just finished serving in the military.

USERRA requires your employer to rehire you if you leave to perform military service and meet certain conditions. First, you must give notice, either verbally or in writing, to your employer that you are leaving for military service.

Second, you have to have served less than five years of military service while with that employer. You also must apply for re-employment in a timely manner once service is complete, and must not have been separated or discharged for other than honorable reasons.

Further, if you do leave to perform military service, you have the right to continue your employer-based health coverage if you so choose, or to be reinstated in that coverage without a waiting or probationary period when you return.

The statute also protects former service members from discrimination or retaliation on the basis of their past, present, or potential future military service. This includes hiring, firing, and in promotions or career advancement. It also protects those who aid in protecting a service member's rights under the Act. Oklahoma also has a statute protecting those who serve in the state's National Guard units.

Complaints under USERRA are investigated and enforced by Veterans Employment and Training Service of the U.S. Department of Labor. Further, if you feel that you or a loved one has been discriminated against in the employment field due to military service, you may wish to contact an Oklahoma employment rights lawyer, as you may be able to acquire compensation. This does not only seek to compensate the damages and losses incurred by this event but also protect the rights and interests of the employee as well.

Source: US Dept. of Labor, "Your Rights Under USERRA," accessed Oct. 21, 2014

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