andrae.jpegAt a time when the unemployment rate for returning veterans has been showing signs of hope, a growing number of companies are breaking the laws that protect the employment of returning veterans.

Vets, including National Guard and Reserve soldiers, have faced numerous deployments and calls to duty during the years of war over the past decade, and many have returned to find they no longer had jobs they expected to return to. Some contend they have faced discrimination on their return, or retaliation for their military service.

Such actions are illegal under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, which is supposed to help protect veterans when they return to the workforce.

But some employers either don’t care about the law or are ignorant of it.

“The number of new USERRA cases handled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veteran Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS) and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) rose 10 percent from 1,438 to 1,576,” according to Department of Labor data provided by employment law firm Tully Rinckey, one of the top firms in the country focused on veteran workplace rights.

Indeed, I wrote a story about this issue for earlier this year, and I profiled Andrae Evans, an insurance sales manager and a member of the New York Army National Guard in 2004, who felt his rights were violated. The photo above is of Evans in Kandahar during a patrol in 2009.

Evans claimed his employer didn’t give him his job back when he returned from duty.

Tully provided a list of the most common ways employers thwart the law:

1. The employer refuses to hire National Guardsmen or Reservists, believing their military obligations will interfere with business operations.
2. The employer finds a replacement employee to fill in for a service member on active duty, keeps the replacement in that job when the service member returns, and places the service member in a position of lesser status, pay, or seniority.
3. Under the guise that the service member’s position was eliminated while he or she was on active duty, the employer reemploys him or her to a job that involves different duties than his or her previous position and/or provides less pay.
4. The employer reemploys a service member but does not provide him or her with the same amount of vacation or sick leave the service member would have received had he or she not left for uniformed service.
5. The employer refuses to take into account the amount of seniority an employee accrued while he or she was on active duty and denies the service member a seniority-based promotion for which he or she is qualified.

Clearly, there are a lot of companies out there who go out of their way to help vets. The Families and Work Institute recently honored some of those employers that are doing a good job helping ex-soldiers thrive in the workplace.

But as Veterans’ Day approaches we should all take a few moments out of our day to think about the sacrifices these men and women have made for our country, and give them a little bit of additional consideration when it comes to jobs; or, for the love of Pete, at the very least, not deny them their employment rights.

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