Florida employees who are members of the National Guard, Reserves, or militia most likely have two jobs: a position in the private sector and a position in the military. If you are called to active duty, you might be absent from your civilian job for months. But while you are gone, federal and state laws protect your job rights.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
Employees who need time off work for military service are protected by USERRA, a federal law. USERRA prohibits discrimination against employees who are in the military, have served in the military, or take leave to serve in the military. But it provides valuable additional protections as well: USERRA requires employers to reinstate employees who take up to five years off for military service, with all of the promotions, raises, and other benefits they would have received had they worked through their time off. And, it prohibits employers from firing employees without cause for up to one year after they return from service. (For more information on USERRA, see Taking Military Leave.)
Florida Laws Protecting Employees on Military Leave
USERRA protects employees who serve in the United States military, including those who serve in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, Reserves, Army or Air National Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. If you work in Florida and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the military, you are protected by USERRA.
Florida law protects employees who are members of the Florida National Guard and are called into active state duty. These employees may not be penalized for their absence from work. Once their military service is complete, they must be reinstated with full benefits. And, they cannot be terminated without cause for a year after they are reinstated.
Florida law also prohibits discrimination against members of the reserves.
Finally, Florida law provides a valuable benefit to those who are receiving COBRA benefits when they are called to active duty. (COBRA provides continuing health insurance coverage, at the employer’s group insurance rate, to employees and their families who would otherwise lose such coverage because they were laid off, had their hours cut, or otherwise no longer meet the employer’s requirements for participation.) If a member of the National Guard or Reserves is receiving COBRA benefits and is called to active duty, the period of time when that service member is covered by TRICARE (military health benefits) won’t count against his or her COBRA entitlement. For example, if a former employee is entitled to 18 months of COBRA coverage, but is called to active duty after only three months of coverage, the service member will have 15 months of COBRA coverage left after returning from active duty and losing eligibility for military health benefits.
If you have faced discrimination because of your military service, or you have been denied the reinstatement and other rights available to you under USERRA or Florida law, check out servicemembers.gov, the Department of Justice's website devoted to enforcing USERRA and other laws that protect the rights of those who serve in the military. You'll also find helpful information at the website of Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve.