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Reservists have rights at work

Job protection is a key benefit. Help is there when it is violated

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The last thing reservists and National Guard members called to duty should expect is to find their civilian job no longer there when they return. Yes, employers face burdens and inconveniences when an employee leaves for an extended period of time, but laws are in place to protect military members. When employers break these laws, it is time to consult an attorney who deals with these issues.

Michael McNeil, an attorney with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC spent nearly nine years on active duty as a combat engineer, twice deployed to the Middle East., and now, together with his colleague Darrell Cochran, he supports reservists, National Guard members, active duty soldiers, veterans, and their families on issues ranging from medical malpractice to employment rights, and product liability to catastrophic injuries.

When it comes to civilian employment for reservists and National Guard members, McNeil says the law is clear. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Actof 1994 (USERRA) ensures that individuals are entitled to timely reinstatement, accrued seniority as if continuously employed even during the deployment, training or retraining upon return, and protection against discharge after reemployment, except for cause.

The key to ensure protections under USERRA is to make sure the civilian job absence was required to perform military service, the individual gave written or verbal notice to the employer prior to leaving for military training or service (except when precluded by military necessity or in a highly classified position), the absence did not exceed the five-year cumulative limit on periods of service, the individual was released from service under conditions other than dishonorable, and they returned to the civilian job in an expeditious manner and/or submitted a timely application for reemployment.

Of course, there are more nuisances to the rules, and the best course of action is to consult an attorney. According to Cochran, there usually isn’t anything sinister involved – in most cases, employers are frustrated, financially impacted, or just unaware of the laws protecting these individuals. “But the law is clear – you cannot punish the military member because of these frustrations,” said Cochran.

McNeil is inspired by his own military service to make sure the rights of those defending the United States are protected. He is a veteran, helping veterans. “In the Army, a leader’s primary responsibilities are the accomplishment of the mission, and the welfare of their soldiers. I don’t see a distinction from what Darrell and I accomplish with our practice. The mission is to achieve the most favorable outcome for our soldier clients, and their welfare is of utmost importance to us.”

It is interesting to note that the statute of limitations does not apply to the USERRA. So even if you were impacted decades ago, you might still have a case.

Consultations with Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC are free. You are encouraged to call McNeil or Cochran at 253-948-3199 if you think you may have been fired or denied reemployment because of your military service, or if you or your family are facing issues of medical malpractice, product liability or catastrophic injuries. Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC only accepts a fee if they win your case.


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