USERRA Update

Posted: May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Legislation to strengthen a law protecting the employment rights of veterans and military servicemembers has been introduced in the Senate. The legislation S.2299, called the Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act “will help force the hand of those who have failed to follow the law when it comes to providing our nation’s heroes with the basic safeguards they deserve,” said Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WA.), chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, who introduced the bill on 18 APR. The legislation is meant to improve enforcement of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, known as USERRA,
which mandates that service members not be denied jobs or otherwise be penalized by employers because of their military obligations. The federal government, the nation’s largest employer of veterans, is also the biggest offender of the law, The Washington Post reported in February. The bill would strengthen the employment protections in USERRA by:
 Enabling the Attorney General to investigate and file suit against a pattern or practice of USERRA violations by a state or private employer;
 Allowing the United States to serve as a named plaintiff in USERRA suits and to issue civil investigative demands for relevant documentary material; and
 Providing the Special Counsel with authority to subpoena relevant testimony and documents from Federal employees and agencies to carry out investigations.
SCRA protects servicemembers from discriminations and disabilities due to service in civil legal proceedings. This new bill would strengthen its protections by:
 Strengthening the protections that prevent judgments against a servicemember when they cannot appear in court because of military service;
 Broadening the authority of the Attorney General to investigate allegations of SCRA violations; and
 Clarifying the right of servicemembers to bring a private law suit to assert their SCRA rights.
Last month, John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, issued a memo to senior federal executives calling for zero tolerance for federal violations of the USERRA. Murray’s bill would also strengthen protections for servicemembers who are improperly overcharged or foreclosed upon by banks. The proposed legislation is being supported by several veterans organizations. “Servicemembers who currently seek relief under these acts often face significant roadblocks,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Even if a violation exists, it can be difficult and expensive for vets to challenge employers armed with greater legal and financial resources.” [Source: Washington Post Steve Vogel article 19 Apr 2012 ++]

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