If you work in Virginia 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. Virginia law provides similar protections for those in 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.)
Virginia 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 Virginia and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the U.S. military, you are protected by USERRA.
Members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia State Defense Force, or naval militia who are called to active duty by the Governor are entitled to take unpaid leave. They may not be required to use up their vacation or other accrued leave, although they may do so if they choose. Employees who take no more than five years of military leave must be reinstated to their previous position, at the same seniority, status and pay. An employee must apply for reinstatement, in writing, within 14 days after release from service (or related hospitalization) of no more than 180 days, or within 90 days of service (or related hospitalization) lasting more than 180 days.
Virginia prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their membership in, or obligations to, the Virginia National guard, the Virginia State Defense Force, or the naval militia.
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 Virginia 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.