What Reservists and National Guardsmen returning from military service don't know can hurt their civilian careers.
This morning, Augusta attorneys, A. Montague Miller and John B. Long, discussed veterans' discrimination issues at a legal forum sponsored by the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
Petty Officer 1st Class Capri Cruz plans to retire from the Navy in October and wondered how much information she's required to give on her military service.
"I'm a little paranoid about what future employers will want to know," she said. "I want to ask what's legal for them to ask."
Records such as her military separation papers might be required to verify her military employment, but Long told her to give employers a copy of the short form not the one with all of her personal data.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ensures that those who've served in the military are not discriminated against by employers because of their military service. In addition, the Georgia legal code provides for those serving in the Georgia National Guard; they are further covered should they be called up by the Governor in support of a national disaster and lose time from their civilian jobs.
Employees returning after a deployment with the military are entitled to any benefit they would have accrued during that time of separation such as back pay, front pay, 401K or vacation pay, said Miller.
Employers cannot require employees to sign resignation notices before they are called to duty nor can they be required to use their vacation time for military service.
In some situations, the returning employee cannot be rehired; as in the case that it creates an undo hardship on the employer.
"If a company had 25 employees, and now they have only three, this could cause a hardship if the veteran re-applied," said Miller.
Miller gave several instances of court cases which were ruled in favor of the veteran, but he said there aren't as many cases as people might think. He said he believes the reason is few people know their rights.
A main focus of the event was USERRA, which does not apply to career service members, but that didn't stop retirees and soon to be military retirees from attending and asking questions.
Laurie Ott, who is the executive director of the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project, said the forum was the first in what will likely be a series of events aimed at getting the word out to veterans on their rights.