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DOL Poster Spells Out Employers' Obligations Toward Uniformed Employees, Including Health Care Continuity
By Stephen Miller, March 2005
[From SHRM's Compensation & Benefits Focus Area]
A notice in poster format explaining the rights of employees under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is now available for employers to downloadfrom the Department of Labor (DOL) web site.
The Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, passed by Congress in December 2004, mandates that employers provide the notice to “all persons entitled to rights and benefits under USERRA.” Employers may meet this obligation by posting the notice in a prominent place where employees customarily check for such information.
USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to undertake military service. The law also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed services and applicants to the uniformed services. “We will work tirelessly to continue to keep National Guard and Reserve service members, their families and employers informed about USERRA, the law that protects their jobs and benefits,” announced Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.
Health Insurance Protection
As the poster spells out, ESERRA also grants employees who leave their job to perform military service:
• The right to elect to continue their existing employer-based health plan coverage for themselves and their dependents for up to 24 months while in the military.
• Even if they don't elect to continue coverage during their military service, they have the right to be reinstated in their employer's health plan when they are reemployed, generally without any waiting periods or exclusions (e.g., pre-existing condition exclusions) except for service-connected illnesses or injuries.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) is authorized to investigate and resolve complaints of USERRA violations, and contact information is provided on the poster.
The poster also explains that if employees file a complaint that VETS is unable to resolve, they may request that their case be referred to the Department of Justice or the Office of Special Counsel, depending on the employer, for representation. They may also bypass the VETS process and bring a civil action against an employer for violations of USERRA.
A Continuing Effort
The new poster is the latest in a series of compliance-assistance efforts undertaken by the Department of Labor to increase employer awareness of USERRA. Others include:
• Providing briefings and technical assistance to more than 220,000 service members and others on USERRA.
• Distributing public service announcements to increase awareness of USERRA rights.
• Publishing proposed USERRA regulations, which explain the law in plain English.
Employers can obtain detailed information about USERRA by calling 1-866-4-USA-DOL or by visiting www.dol.gov/vets.
Stephen Miller is the manager of SHRM's Compensation & Benefits Forum.
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