The Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Act
Many of the military reservists and National Guard members who are called to active duty are letter carriers. Veterans and legal reservists employed by the Postal Service have always had special legal rights. Congress revised and strengthened these protections in 1994, through the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
Highlights of USERRA rights:
- Up to five years: USERRA extended reemployment rights to employees who are absent from work because of active duty in the uniformed services for up to five years (or longer in certain cases).
- Status while on military leave: Employees in the reserves or National Guard who are called for active duty are placed in a leave without pay (LWOP) status until their return from active duty. Employees enlisting in the military have the option to either enter LWOP status or resign from the Postal Service.
- Rights while on military leave: USERRA preserves many of the rights of employees who enter LWOP status while serving in the military. For example, they continue to accrue seniority. They may receive bidding notices (upon written request) and bid in writing on vacant positions. Their bid assignments are not posted for bid while they serve.
- Reemployment rights: An employee reemployed after a separation for military service of up to 90 days must be returned to the seniority, grade and position the employee would have held if he or she had remained continuously employed. After a longer separation period, the Postal Service must return the employee either to that position or to one of like seniority, status, and pay.
- Other benefits: USERRA protects the various employee benefits in different ways. For example, employees on military leave may continue federal health benefits coverage for up to 18 months (with the employer continuing its contributions for the first year). Life insurance (FEGLI) is continued for up to 12 months for employees on LWOP. There are rules enabling employees to make deposits to receive CSRS or FERS credit for military service, and to recover lost TSP contributions.
- Nondiscrimination: USERRA prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of military service and prohibits acts of reprisal for exercising USERRA rights or for seeking to enforce them. The remedies for violations of USERRA may include back pay, lost benefits, and legal costs.
- Enforcement of USERRA rights: Employees may file complaints with the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) of the Department of Labor. Employees placed in an LWOP status during military service remain members of the bargaining unit and may be represented by NALC concerning certain issues such as the failure of the Postal Service to honor bids. They should seek advice from their branch officers or national business agent if they believe union assistance is required.
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