Veterans have job rights

Q&A with Zachary A.P. Oubre

published in The Oklahoman | September 14, 2012

A recent federal court case should serve as an important reminder to employers that returning military personnel looking to be reinstated to their former job are protected by a powerful federal law — the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).

In a Q&A with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft litigator and employment attorney Zach Oubre said that employers are required to reinstate former vets if they meet just four conditions: they gave proper notice to their employer in advance of their departure; their tour of service was less than five years; they make a timely request for re-employment, accompanied by proper documentation; and their separation from military service was under “honorable” conditions.

“The law requires employers to re-employ veterans in the job they would have attained had they not left for active military duty, with the same seniority, pay and other benefits determined by seniority,” said Oubre. “USERRA also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to help returning vets make the transition back to their former jobs at the same proficiency level. In most cases, this means providing training or refresher courses.”

Employers found to have violated the law face significant penalties. As an example, Oubre pointed to the recently decided federal case in Tennessee.

“A U.S. Army reservist was awarded nearly $300,000 in back pay and damages when his former employer, a police department in Tennessee, failed to immediately reinstate him to his former position as a patrol sergeant.”