Soldier holding daughter The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) ensures sure that a civilian's career doesn't suffer due to military service. The law protects all service members, including those in the Reserves and National Guard, who need to take time off work for military duty or training.

Every Employer Must Grant Military Leave

USERRA applies to every employer in the country, including very small businesses. Even if you are your boss' only employee, you are entitled to take leave for military duty or training. This is different from most employment laws, which typically leave out very small businesses.

You Can Use Military Leave for Service or Training

If you are a federal employee, you can use up to 15 days or 120 hours of military leave with pay each year for military training and service. USERRA allows you to use this paid leave for active duty service, active duty training, or inactive duty training if you are a member of the National Guard or Reserves.

You may also use the time for drill in a Reserve unit or funeral honors duties.

You Should Be Charged Only for the Time You Need

Depending on the circumstances, you may need only a few hours of time off for military duty or training. You can take leave as little as one hour at a time. If you normally work Monday through Friday and your training is scheduled on the weekends, you should not be charged military leave for those hours.

Federal employees may also carry over up to 15 days of military leave each year to use in another year. You may also use annual leave instead of military leave if you wish.

Your Employer Must Rehire You After Military Duty

If you go on active duty and want to return to your old job afterward, your employer must rehire you. To be eligible, you must tell your employer that you're going on active duty, serve up to five years on active duty, and get a general or honorable discharge. If you are on active duty for less than 31 days, you must return to your job at the beginning of the next scheduled work day after you get home.

State Laws on Military Leave Vary

Most states have their own military leave laws granting employees more leave than USERRA. For example, some states allow you up to 30 days of paid leave rather than 15. Other states allow employees to take unlimited unpaid leave for military service.

An Employment Law Attorney Can Help

The law surrounding USERRA and military leave is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment law lawyer.

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