Members of the military make monumental sacrifices, from family time to their well-being, all in service to our country. Those who serve in the National Guard and Reserves while holding down full-time jobs sometimes have to leave their place of employment temporarily when ordered to deploy.
Federal law mandates that employers keep jobs open for these men and women serving the country. In 1994, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). While initial deployments were scarce, they have significantly increased over the 25 years since the USERRA passed due to the events of 9/11 and subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bad Behavior From Within?
Though the federal government is cited by USERRA for its role as a “model employer,” it currently faces accusations of discrimination against their employees. Simply put, the federal government may be “modeling” bad behavior and violating employment law against staff members working in the same industry.
According to the Department of Labor, multiple federal-level offenders of the law ironically have significantly close ties to the military. The Department of Defense alone topped the list of alleged USERRA violations with nearly 500 claims. The Departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security were second and third, respectively.
One of those lawsuits, filed by 15 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents – some of who served for several decades with multiple tours – claimed temporary deployments carried negative consequences, ranging from denials of promotions to office relocations far away from their homes.
The legal actions also cite superiors telling the agents that military service was taking too much time away from their jobs. One agent recalled a conversation with a supervisor who purportedly told the employee, who was wounded in Iraq, that he deserved what he got.
That case is one of 2,300 in a long queue. Any resolution, if not justice for brave military men and women, will likely come later rather than sooner.