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Can New Jersey veterans fight against employment discrimination?

Employment discrimination can have many faces. Most of the time that we hear about employment discrimination, someone is being singled out because of their race, gender, religion or disability. However, it is also important to know that individuals who served our country in the military are also protected against certain discriminatory practices based on their past, present or future military service.

One federal law that protects veterans in the workplace is called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. In a nutshell, USERRA helps protect veterans in their civilian jobs, usually after they have completed their military service. Generally, USERRA accomplishes that protection by ensuring that returning veterans do not lose their jobs back home simply because they have been absent for military service. USERRA also ensures that employers who rehire returning veterans do not “restart the clock” regarding those veteran’s seniority and other benefits.

A 2013 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that a review of 38 complaints filed with the Veterans Employment and Training Service included allegations of discrimination based on military service. Another 25 percent of the complaints reviewed by VETS centered on cases where employers improperly reinstated returning veterans into their civilian jobs. VETS reportedly conducted over 47,000 briefings with individuals regarding their job rights during fiscal 2013.

One case in particular serves as a good example of USERRA helping a veteran get their job back. A woman in Missouri filed a USERRA claim against her former employer after she returned to her job after her active-duty service ended in Iraq. The former Army soldier claimed that although her former employer had rehired her as a security officer, the employer stripped her of her previous 13 years seniority. She also alleged that her employer retaliated after she filed a USERRA claim by firing her over a small infraction regarding company policy. VETS investigated the complaint and after the case went to arbitration the veteran’s employer offered her job back at her previous level of seniority in addition to compensating her with more than $20,000 in back wages.

Even if you’re not a returning New Jersey veteran you need to know that you have a right to be free of discrimination in the workplace. If you have experienced such practices your New Jersey employment rights attorney can assist you by pursuing justice through the courts.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor-Veterans’ Employment & Training Service, “Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Information” accessed Feb. 19, 2015

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