Since at least the Civil War, the federal government has passed a number of laws intended to protect the rights of people who serve in our military -- including their right to return to their civilian jobs when their service is complete. Most recently Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, in 1994. The law requires employers to reinstate veterans, military reservists, and federally-activated members of the National Guard to their jobs when they return from duty -- and that applies to reserve training, as well.
Unfortunately for one Army reservist, the Best Buy store he worked for was apparently unaware of the law, or of the valuable service his one weekend a month and two weeks a year provides to our country. According to a federal lawsuit he just filed, the store fired him while he was on his annual two-week reserve training session last year.
He even reminded his supervisors before he left that he would be absent for two weeks and that it was for Army reserve service. Nevertheless, he claims, they scheduled him for shifts during the training and then marked him down as a “no call, no show” when he didn’t clock in.
When he got back, he was no longer on the shift schedule. When he asked the store’s general manager what was up, the man told him his absences had “given the impression” that he intended to quit.
That wasn’t quite accurate. He followed up with the human resources department and was told he was involuntarily separated. Fired. Terminated. For his service.
If his allegations are true, this was wrongful termination in clear violation of the USERRA. In his lawsuit, the reservist is seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
If there is one area of employment law that is cherished by all, it is the prohibition of discrimination based on military service. We can’t allow service in the reserves to threaten the livelihoods of our solders, or they won’t be able to serve at all.
If you believe you have faced adverse job consequences due to your military service, the law is on your side. Consider discussing your case with an employment law attorney -- you should be thanked for your service, not penalized.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Can't Fire Me for That, Army Reserve Man Says,” Joe Harris, Oct. 23, 2013