If you work in Tennessee 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. Tennessee is one of the few states that doesn’t provide similar rights for members of the state’s military forces, but it does prohibit employers from discriminating based on military affiliation or service.
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.)
Tennessee 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 Tennessee and you need time off for service in one of these branches of the U.S. military, you are protected by USERRA.
A number of states have enacted protections similar to those guaranteed by USERRA for members of the state’s militia or National Guard. However, Tennessee isn’t one of them.
Tennessee law prohibits employers from terminating or refusing to hire an employee based on his or her membership in the Tennessee National Guard or need to be absent from work for required drills, including annual field 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 Tennessee 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.