Illinois employees who are also members of the state or National Guard or reserves have two jobs: a position in the private sector and military service. If you are called to active duty, you might be absent from your civilian job for months. But while you are gone, federal and Illinois laws protect your job rights.
In fact, Illinois law goes further than federal law: Illinois protects not only employees who are already members of the military, but also employees who leave their jobs to join the military.
Federal Protections: USERRA
Employees who need time off work for military service are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a federal law. USERRA 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 as well. 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.)
Illinois 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 Illinois and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the military, you are protected by USERRA.
Illinois law protects members of the Guard who are called to state active duty by order of the Governor. These employees have the right to reinstatement, with the increases in status, seniority, and wages that they would have earned had they been continuously employed. Like USERRA, Illinois law also protects reinstated employees from termination, other than for cause, for one year.
Illinois law doesn’t only protect employees who are already members of the Guard or reserves, however. It also protects employees who leave their jobs to join the military. Technically, these employees are not on “military leave,” as they have quit their jobs. However, they too are entitled to get their jobs back once they receive an honorable discharge from their military service, along with the increases in status, seniority, and wages that employees in similar positions earned during their time in service.
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 Illinois 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.