COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR SERVICE MEMBERS AND EMPLOYERS
The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in significant National Guard and Reserve activations to support response efforts throughout the U.S. Additionally, it has created unique circumstances for Service members returning to their civilian employment after serving in a potentially COVID-19 impacted area, especially if the civilian employer has requested the Service member self-isolate before returning to work. In situations where a Service member’s civilian employer may have laid off employees due to COVID-19 related business closures, the Service member may be adversely impacted returning to civilian employment.
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Customer Service Center is available to help both Service members and employers understand their Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) rights and responsibilities, and to address potential COVID-19 related impacts. The resources below provide additional information and links to USERRA related FAQs and will be updated as circumstances warrant.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND CDC RESOURCES
RESERVE COMPONENT RESOURCES
ESGR AND DEPARTMENT OF LABOR USERRA CONTACTS
ESGR Customer Service Center: Service members and employers with USERRA and employment-related inquiries may contact 1-800-336-4590, option 1. To submit an online inquiry or to request USERRA Support, visit the USERRA Contact page.
Department of Labor: Important USERRA-related resources and compliance assistance materials for employees and employers are available through the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service website at www.dol.gov/agencies/vets/programs/userra, which contains a USERRA elaws Advisor, FAQs, fact sheets, and links to the statute and implementing regulations. DOL's toll-free information and helpline, available 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, is 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). DOL VETS has posted COVID-19 specific guidance, and the FAQs are also posted below.
Service members activated under State Active Duty authority in response to COVID-19 should contact the appropriate state office regarding their specific employment protections and concerns. USERRA is a federal statute and applies to Title 32, Title 10 and Title 14 of the U.S. Code.
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR FACT SHEET FAQs
Does this factsheet create new USERRA rights and obligations in light of COVID-19?
No. The statute and regulations still govern USERRA rights and obligations. This factsheet addresses some scenarios that might arise from the application of USERRA in the context of this pandemic.
Does a member of the National Guard or Reserves who is called to active duty in response to the COVID-19 emergency have employment and reemployment protections under USERRA?
Yes, if called to duty under federal authority. National Guard or Reserve duty under federal authority (such as Title 10 or Title 32) is covered by USERRA.
Yes, if a National Guard member serving on State Active Duty on or after January 5, 2021, if certain conditions apply (described below).
Historically, National Guard duty under state authority, commonly referred to as State Active Duty, has not been covered under USERRA. However, pursuant to a recent statutory amendment which became effective on January 5, 2021, members of the National Guard serving on State Active Duty: a) for 14 days or more, b) in support of a national emergency declared by the President under the National Emergencies Act, or c) in support of a major disaster declared by the President under Section 401 of the Stafford Act, are now covered under USERRA. Note that (b) above includes (as of January 5, 2021) service in support of the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 outbreak declared by the President under the National Emergencies Act on March 13, 2020.
Members of the National Guard otherwise serving on State Active Duty may have similar employment protections under state law and should contact the appropriate state office for assistance.
Note that the authority under which orders are issued can change, even in the course of a service member’s performance of service.
Can a Service member be furloughted or laid off upon return from uniformed service?
Yes, if it is reasonably certain that he or she would have been furloughed or laid off had he or she not been absent for uniformed service.
May an employer delay a service member’s reemployment out of concern that the service member’s service in a COVID-19 affected area may have exposed him or her to COVID-19?
No. If the employee satisfies the prerequisites to reemployment, the employee should be promptly reemployed in the job position that he or she would have attained with reasonable certainty if not for the absence due to uniformed service.
Promptness generally depends on the length of time an individual was away, ranging from the next day after returning from duty, if the deployment was relatively short, to up to fourteen days in the case of a multi-year deployment.
When reemploying a service member who might have been exposed to COVID-19, an employer must make reasonable efforts in order to qualify the returning employee for his or her proper reemployment position. This can include temporarily providing paid leave, remote work, or another position during a period of quarantine for an exposed reemployed service member or COVID-19 infected reemployed service member, before reemploying the individual into his or her proper reemployment position.