If you work in South Carolina 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. South Carolina law extends similar protections to members of the state’s military forces.
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.)
South Carolina 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 South Carolina and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the U.S. military, you are protected by USERRA.
Under South Carolina law, members of the South Carolina National Guard and South Carolina State Guard who are called to active state duty by the Governor are entitled to unpaid leave. Upon completing service, an employee is entitled to reinstatement to his or her previous position of to one with the same seniority, status, and salary, unless the employer’s circumstances make such restoration unreasonable. Employees must apply for reinstatement in writing, within five days of release from service or hospitalization following 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 South Carolina 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.