Alphabet Soup, Federal Style

In light of the continued U.S. military action in the Middle East and other areas of the world, employers must be aware of -- and meet their obligations under -- the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act of 1994 (USERRA).

USERRA applies to all employers, regardless of size. Even if a company has only one employee, it must comply with USERRA.

The law sets forth numerous obligations of employers relative to employees taking military leave, including entitlements to benefits during a USERRA-protected leave of absence, as well as reemployment rights at the conclusion of service. USERRA also prohibits discrimination and retaliation against any employee or applicant for employment because of current or f ormer application for, or membership in, uniformed service.

Military leave provisions were enhanced in 2008 by the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (“NDAA”), which included two important amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act ( “FMLA”). The FMLA now allows the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a member of the Armed Forces to take up to 26 workweeks of leave to care for that member of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserves if certain conditions apply. Those would include, for example, if the relative were undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, or is an outpatient or is on temporary disability related to a serious injury or illness.

The second change to the FMLA is the addition of a provision that allows employees to take up to 12 workweeks of protected leave to deal with emergencies or necessities arising out of a family member’s active duty in the military.

As with the basic provisions of the FMLA, the guidelines must be met and there must be a qualifying event. In addition, if your business manual has a Family and Medical Leave Act provision, the manual must be revised to include details about military-related leaves. Finally, all businesses must have a USERRA posting.

This article may be considered advertising under the rules of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.