If you work in New Jersey and serve in the state or National Guard or reserves, you might have to leave your private sector job for military service. If you are called to active duty, you might be absent from your civilian job for months. But while you are gone, a federal law called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects your job. New Jersey has adopted similar protections for those who are called to active state duty or need time off for military training.
Federal Law: USERRA
USERRA, a federal law, prohibits discrimination against employees who are in the U.S. Armed Forces, have served in the military, or take leave to serve in the military.
USERRA provides valuable additional protections, too. It 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.)
New Jersey Laws 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 New Jersey and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the U.S. military, you are protected by USERRA.
New Jersey provides two additional protections for those who need leave for military duty. First, employees have the right to be reinstated following active duty in the U.S. or state military services. An employee must be reinstated to the same position or one similar to the position the employee formerly held. If this isn’t possible, the employee must be restored to any available position for which the employee is qualified, upon the employee’s request. An employee seeking reinstatement under this provision must apply within 90 days after release from military service. Following reinstatement, an employee may not be fired without cause for one year.
Second, New Jersey protects employees who need time off for training. Employees may take up to three months off in a four-year period for annual training or assemblies relating to military service, or to attend service schools conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces. An employee seeking reinstatement following this type of leave must apply with ten days after completion of training.
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 New Jersey 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.