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Civil Rights and Servicemembers

Civil Rights for Servicemembers

Members of the armed forces make great sacrifices in order to protect our nation. Recognizing these sacrifices, Congress has enacted a number of laws specifically designed to protect the civil rights of servicemembers, both while they are on active duty and after they return to civilian life. These laws ensure that servicemembers will be able vote while they are stationed overseas, return to their civilian employment after completing their service and have certain civil financial protections while on active duty. Additionally, servicemembers who have been injured during their service and return to civilian life with a new disability have civil rights guaranteed by the law.

This [article] provides a brief explanation of the civil rights of servicemembers, as well as information about how to learn more or to file a complaint if you believe your rights have been violated.  

Employment

DOL will investigate the complaint and may attempt to voluntarily resolve the complaint. If DOL cannot resolve the complaint, upon the complainant’s request, DOL will forward to the complaint to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects the civilian employment rights of servicemembers and veterans. Among other things, under certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to put individuals back to work in their civilian jobs after military service. If you are eligible for reemployment, you must be restored to the position and senioritybased benefits that you would have attained or, in some cases, a comparable job, had you not been absent from work to perform military service. 

USERRA also protects servicemembers from discrimination in the workplace based on their military service or affiliation. An employer may not terminate you or deny you initial employment, retention in employment, promotion, or any other benefit of employment because of your status as a servicemember. An employer also may not retaliate against you or any other person for asserting, or assisting with the assertion of, USERRA rights. 

USERRA also entitles you to the right to continue your existing employer-based health plan coverage for Employment 4 Photo courtesy of defenseimagery.mil up to two years while in the military, and to reinstate your health insurance once you are reemployed. Additionally, upon reemployment following a period of absence for uniformed service, the employer must treat you as not having had a break in service for purposes of participation, vesting, and accrual of benefits in pension plans. If you are enrolled in a contributory plan, you are allowed, but not required, to make up missed contributions to the plan or elective deferrals, and receive the employer’s match, if any. 

Servicemembers who believe that they have been victims of employment discrimination based on their military service may file a complaint with the Department of Labor (DOL) or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. 

It is important that you file a complaint with DOL or consult with a private attorney as soon as possible. To file a complaint under USERRA, contact your nearest Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) office, which you can locate by visiting www.dol.gov/ vets/aboutvets/contacts/main.htm, or calling DOL at 1-866-4USADOL (487-2365) . 

DOL will investigate the complaint and may attempt to voluntarily resolve the complaint. If DOL cannot resolve the complaint, upon the complainant’s request, DOL will forward to the complaint to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.