Employment Laws Concerning Veterans Toolkit

Resources to help employers comply with federal and state employment laws concerning veterans, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). 

Practical Law Labor & Employment

In 2015, there were approximately 21.2 million veterans in the US, and nearly 11 million were working or looking for work in the US (see Bureau of Labor Statistics: Employment Situation of Veterans Summary: Table A (Mar. 22, 2016)). More than 3.5 million of these veterans served during conflicts in the Gulf and Afghanistan since September 2001. As these veterans return to the domestic labor force, employers should double check their policies and practices to ensure that they comply with federal and state employment laws that:

  • Prohibit discrimination and harassment against veterans in the application, hiring, and reemployment process.

  • Require employers, in most circumstances, to reinstate employees who are uniformed service members returning from military leave.

  • Require employers to grant leaves of absence for members of the military, their families, and their caregivers in certain circumstances.

  • Require federal government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance veterans in employment.

Employers should get up to speed on three federal statutes aimed at protecting veterans (and, in some instances, their relatives) from employment discrimination and advancing veterans' employment opportunities.

The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ( www.practicallaw.com/5-502-5644) (USERRA) grants employees rights when returning to work after serving in the uniformed services for fewer than five years, in most cases. In particular, USERRA requires that, absent an employer's undue hardship, employees returning from military leave be:

  • Promptly reemployed in an appropriate position.

  • Reinstated with all rights and benefits that the employee would have earned without a break in employment.

  • Provided training or retraining as needed to integrate into the new position.

USERRA also:

  • Requires employers to continue to provide health benefits during the first 24 months of military leave.

  • Prohibits employment discrimination and harassment on the basis of past, present, or prospective military service.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ( www.practicallaw.com/7-502-3432) (FMLA) requires, in part, that covered employers provide eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for family or medical reasons, including leave:

  • To care for certain family members who are qualifying covered service members with a serious injury or illness.

  • For a qualifying exigency ( www.practicallaw.com/5-502-3433) due to the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent being a military member on covered active duty or their call to covered active duty status.

The federal Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 ( www.practicallaw.com/2-507-0195) (VEVRAA) imposes a broad range of obligations on federal contractors and subcontractors to promote the employment of veterans. In particular, the VEVRAA:

  • Prohibits covered federal government contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against statutorily protected categories of veterans, who are:

    • special disabled veterans;

    • recently separated veterans;

    • veterans of the Vietnam era; and

    • armed forces service medal veterans.

  • Requires covered federal government contractors and subcontractors to:

    • take affirmative action to employ and advance veterans in employment;

    • maintain certain employment records about covered veterans, including job listings, applications, and employee files relevant to the recruitment, hiring, and employment actions (see US DOL: VETS-4212 Federal Contractor Reporting);

    • list job openings with particular employment agencies that give priority to covered veterans when referring job seekers to the openings; and

    • submit annual reports on the number of current employees who are covered veterans.

Many states also have enacted legislation that prohibits discrimination against veterans and requires employers to grant leave to military service members and their families. Despite the broad protections of USERRA, states continue to pass laws with additional protections. (See State-Specific Materials.)

This Toolkit provides resources that:

  • Inform employers of their federal and state employment law obligations to prevent discrimination and to provide aid to veterans, their families, and their caregivers under USERRA, the FMLA, related state laws, and the VEVRAA.

  • Identify best practices and agendas for administering these laws.

  • Provide model language for policies and certifications related to these laws.

Practice Notes

Standard Documents

Checklists

State-Specific Materials

 
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