Understanding Veteran Employee Rights

I work well in a team. I can adapt to changing situations. Sound like an ideal employee? It might be. And chances are, the applicant might be a veteran. Those are just two qualities that many veterans and reservists bring to the workplace. Thinking of hiring a vet? It’s important to understand the employment rights veterans have at work. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) applies to all businesses regardless of size. It provides basic employment protections to veterans including:

  • Non-Discrimination – Employers may not deny employment, reemployment, retention in employment, or promotion because of membership in the armed forces or intent to join the military. This applies to active and reserve service, whether voluntary or involuntary.
  • Leave – Employers must grant time off for military duty, whether the individual is ordered to serve or volunteers for a military mission. Many states have similar laws for missions covering natural disasters. It also applies to monthly and annual training required of National Guard and reservists.
  • Pay – Employers are not required to pay employees on military leave. Some make up the difference between their civilian job and what the military pays. The employee may take vacation time, but is not required to do so.
  • Re-employment – Upon return, reservists must be given their job back. They are entitled to any seniority status or pay rate they would have otherwise attained had they not been on duty. Vacation or sick leave does not accrue while activated.
  • Training or Retraining – Employers must make “reasonable efforts” to train a returning employee and accommodate any disabilities incurred while serving. This might involve refresher training to sharpen employees’ skills. Or it may include training if new equipment or technologies are used on the job.

Help for Employers

There are a number of free or low-cost resources available to assist employers who hire veterans including:

  • Training – The Department of Labor offers an online course to help you learn the rules and regulations of USERRA.
  • Funding – Funding may be available to help pay for the training that must be provided to returning service members. Watch this video for more information.

Veterans can bring unique skills and experience to your small business. If you decide to hire a service member, it’s important to understand what your responsibilities are under the law.

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