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USERRA Protections Extended to FEMA Reservists

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.

Compliance assistance resources on USERRA are available from the U.S. Department of Labor. FEMA has also provided FAQs about the new protections.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.