Effective September 29, 2022, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) has extended protections to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Reservists when deployed to disasters and emergencies.
USERRA provides unpaid job protected leave for individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform duties in the uniformed services such as deployments with the National Guard or Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. Congress has since expanded USERRA protections to include certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System, the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System, and now, FEMA Reservists.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers should review and update their military leave policy to ensure that it includes protections for all types of covered servicemembers.
Even though USERRA does not mandate paid leave, employers should be mindful that the law requires that employees on military leave receive comparable treatment to those on non-military leaves of absence. As a result, employers should evaluate benefits provided to employees during comparable leaves of absence. Risk-averse employers who offer any voluntary paid leave to employees, including for jury duty, bereavement, sick leave or other time off, may wish to discuss with their legal counsel whether it is recommended that they start offering equivalent levels of paid leave to employees on military leave.