LEGAL BRIEFS, Lawyers and officials address USERRA issues

Reserve Officers Association of the United States, The Officer, September 2007

By LC

As more Reserve Component members return home from deployments, the number of lawsuits brought under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is on the rise. This is what that laws co-drafter and ROAs Law Review writer CAPT Samuel F. Wright, USNR (Ret.), told an audience of service members, Bay Area attorneys and local businessmen in a special Defense Education Forum session at the ROA National Convention. The session qualified attorneys for three hours of Continuing Legal Education credit.

Citing 1,535 new cases in Fiscal Year 2006, of which 81 percent were from the private sector and 19 percent federal, CAPT Wright-who is now a consultant in legislative affairs for the Department of Defense-stressed that USERRAs role is to preclude lawsuits by employers. He strongly advised communication between civilian and military employers to minimize the impact of deployments on civilian careers. Citizen Warriors should notify employers in writing of their orders as early as possible and document all pertinent employer-employee communication.

San Francisco attorney David A. Lowe of Rudy, Exelrod, & Zieff gave an overview of a current case in which a Reserve nurse lost her job as a result of being deployed and is fighting for reinstatement.

COL Walter C. Herin, USAR, listed the steps Citizen Warriors must take in submitting claims. He covered the roles of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the role of judge advocates in service member's units. Their duties include pre-mobilization and deployment counseling.

Dr. L. Gordon Somner, ESGR executive director, also addressed the session- LC