Veterans Re-Employment

Veterans should not accept the words, “I’m sorry. You can’t have your job back.” Hodges Trial Lawyers is willing help veterans fight for their rights under federal and state law.

As thousands of veterans return from overseas, most of them return to the life and jobs they left behind. Unfortunately, too many of them run into employers that will not re-employ them. However, these companies may be wrong, and veterans have rights.

President Clinton signed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) into law in 1994. Veterans returning to America need to know their rights, and the companies who have the privilege of existing in this Country need to know and abide by their obligations under this law.

Generally, you are entitled to your former job if you were in the uniformed services, the company knew you were going into the service, you weren’t gone more than 5 years, you were honorably discharged, and you asked for your old job within 90 days of discharge. The rights of veterans to their old jobs override the non-veterans who replaced them because, as one court put it, this law is construed liberally to benefit people who left their private lives to serve this Country. If you are disabled, your former employer may have to find a similar position equivalent in seniority, status, and pay. If you can’t re-apply for your old job within 90 days because you’re in the hospital, you may have up to 2 years to do so.

Here are some issues you should consider if you are a veteran and have been denied your old job:

  1. Exhaustion of administrative remedies before the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor (DOL-VETS) is allowed but not required;
  2. Lawyers can review the facts, write a demand letter, and file suit quicker that DOL-VETS will normally handle such cases;
  3. Lawyers will typically advocate more strongly for veterans than will DOL-VETS;
  4. Lawyers can add additional state causes of action (e.g. defamation, punitive damages under State law) in the Complaint under federal court supplementary jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. Section 1367);
  5. Your remedy is to be reemployed in same job and recover lost pay and benefits;
  6. Although punitive damages are not recoverable under the Act, it may allow recovery of liquidated damages in the amount of lost wages and benefits if the employer willfully failed to comply with the Act;
  7. Veterans who worked as federal employees before their service have similar remedies against the federal agencies which employed them although their cases are handled before the Merit Systems Protection Board rather than in federal court;
  8. Veterans who are fired before they deploy in their service may still be able to successfully sue and must prove that they were fired by the employer preemptively because of their service status (in other words, the fact you were about to deploy does NOT have to be the sole reason for firing you but only has to be a motivating factor in the employer’s action).

This law gives veterans the ability to talk soft and carry a big stick. It requires companies who have benefited from your hard work in the past to abide by your right to continue that same hard work when you return. It lets veterans know that our society values their sacrifice and that we are doing more than just putting a yellow ribbon on our car’s rear window. It holds violators accountable for turning their backs on the men and women who serve in harm’s way. It is only right, and it makes sense. We can be proud of it. If you think you have such a case, please contact Hodges Trial Laywers as we would be honored to help you.