New USERRA Employer Responsibilities Going into Effect 1/18/06

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On December 19, 2005, the federal Department of Labor issued a USERRA “final rule” that now requires employers to officially inform employees who are members of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) that they also have such employment and insurance protections. This mandate takes effect January 18, 2006.

For the second consecutive year, U.S. employers have new USERRA responsibilities regarding employees who take military leave from their jobs.

In December 2004, President Bush signed into law a USERRA amendment that requires employers – small or large, public or private – to give employees notice of their job and health insurance protections if they enter or return from military service.

On Dec. 19, 2005, the federal Department of Labor issued a USERRA “final rule” that now requires employers to officially inform employees who are members of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) that they also have such employment and insurance protections. This mandate takes effect Jan. 18, 2006.

NDMS is an asset-sharing program among federal agencies, state and local governments, private businesses and civilian volunteers. It provides medical resources after a disaster that overwhelms the local health care providers.

What Employers Need to Know About USERRA

USERRA – the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act – was enacted in 1994 to protect the workplace rights of employees who take leave for active-duty military service. But, as the labor law experts at Sunrise-based G.Neil Inc. caution, the recent revisions to the law have created additional compliance obligations for employers.

“USERRA applies to all employers due to the anti-discrimination provision of the law, which prohibits discrimination against applicants and employees on the basis of their military status or affiliation,” explained Ashley Kaplan, head of the G.Neil legal team.

“Don’t make the mistake,” she stressed to employers, “of thinking USERRA doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have any employees who are currently in the uniformed services. You could have some tomorrow, so you need to be informed.”

Make Sure You Know the Basics

“Because USERRA provides employment protections for active-duty military personnel, it simultaneously limits an employer’s freedom to hire or promote employees,” Kaplan noted. G.Neil’s legal team advises employers to be aware of these other USERRA basics:

Employment Rights: In general, an employee returning from military duty is entitled to reemployment in his or her former position – or one of comparable seniority, status and pay – unless conditions in the workplace have changed so radically that reemployment would be “impossible” or “unreasonable.”

The Escalator Principle: When reemployed, the returning workers are to be placed on the seniority scale not just at the place where they left but in the position they most likely would be if they had stayed on the job.

Vacations and Benefits: If you grant vacation days based on years of service, a returning soldier’s benefit must be calculated as if he or she never left.

G.Neil, which has specialized in labor law and human resource solutions for more than 16 years, offers numerous tools to help employers meet their HR challenges, including its USERRA Comprehensive Kit to assist with compliance. For more information or to request a catalog, call toll-free 1-800-999-9111 or visit http://www.gneil.com.

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Ashley Kaplan
G.Neil
954-514-2311
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