Many of us are at least vaguely familiar with the fact that Oregon and federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion, pregnancy and disability. An often overlooked but very important federal law regarding employment discrimination protects two groups that are vital to sustaining the freedoms we enjoy: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Who is protected?
Passed in 1994, USERRA protects veterans and active military servicemembers from employment discrimination based on their military service. Furthermore, the law permits them to regain their civilian employment after a period of uniformed service.
Members of all uniformed services including the Army Reserves and the National Guard receive protection. Protections afforded servicemembers under the law include:
- Their military service will not disadvantage their civilian career
- Prompt re-employment in their civilian jobs upon return from duty
- No discrimination from employers based upon military service, whether past, present or future.
Which federal agencies enforce USERRA?
Three different government agencies investigate and enforce USERRA. The Department of Labor (DOL) and Office of Special Counsel (OSC) retain authority over claims involving federal government employers. Parties initiate claims with the DOL, which passes cases with unresolved issues to the OSC once the claimant has completed the DOL process. The Department of Justice and the DOL handle claims involving private employers and state and local governments.
There are legal remedies for many forms of workplace discrimination. Specific laws prohibit different types of discrimination and protect individuals of certain groups. Attorneys who understand the process can offer guidance.