What is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”)?
USERRA is a federal statute that protects servicemembers’ and veterans’ civilian employment rights. Among other things, under certain conditions, USERRA requires employers to put individuals back to work in their civilian jobs after military service. USERRA also protects servicemembers from discrimination in the workplace based on their military service or affiliation.
How does the Department of Justice enforce USERRA?
A servicemember who seeks the Department of Justice's assistance must first file a complaint with the Department of Labor (DOL). DOL will investigate the complaint, determine whether it has merit and attempt to voluntarily resolve meritorious complaints. If DOL cannot resolve a USERRA complaint, the person filing the complaint has the right to have DOL forward his or her complaint to the Department of Justice for review. The DOJ is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the USERRA against state and local government employers and private employers. If the Department of Justice takes your case, it will serve as your attorney if you work for a private employer or a local government. If you work for a state government, the Department of Justice may bring a lawsuit in the name of the United States.
What can I do if I am a servicemember who may be the victim of employment discrimination based on my military service?
Servicemembers who believe that they have been victims of an employment discrimination based on their military service may file a complaint with the Department of Labor or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. If you choose to file with DOL, you may file one of two ways - you may submit a signed hard copy of Form 1010 or electronically file. To submit a hard copy, you can download Form 1010 to your computer, complete the items on the form that are relevant to your claim, sign and date the form, and mail it to the nearest VETS office. You may also file a Form 1010 electronically via the Intranet by completing and submitting the online form. You should be aware that some courts have held that a lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time after the alleged USERRA violation. Thus, it is important that you file a complaint with DOL or consult with a private attorney as soon as possible.
You may also seek the assistance of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve ("ESGR"). ESGR is a Department of Defense agency that maintains an Ombudsman Service Program. That program provides information, counseling and informal mediation of issues relating to USERRA compliance. You may contact the ESGR about your employment situation by calling toll-free 1 (800) 336-4590.
Finally, you are not required to submit your USERRA claim to DOL or the Department of Justice. You have the right to file a USERRA lawsuit with your own private counsel or on your own.
How can I seek representation from the Attorney General on my USERRA claim?
In order to have your USERRA case reviewed by the Attorney General, you must first file a complaint with the Department of Labor. DOL will investigate the complaint and may attempt to voluntarily resolve the complaint. If DOL cannot resolve the complaint, upon the complainant's request, DOL will forward to the complaint to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice then reviews the case to determine whether representation is appropriate.
You are not required to submit your USERRA claim to DOL or the Department of Justice. You have the right to file a USERRA lawsuit with your own private counsel or on your own.
What is the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA)?
UOCAVA is a federal statute, enacted by Congress in 1986, which requires that states and territories allow certain groups of citizens to register and vote absentee in elections for Federal offices. The protections of UOCAVA apply to: (1) members of the uniformed services on active duty who, because of their membership in the service, are absent from their place of residence, and are otherwise qualified to vote; (2) the spouses and dependents of these uniformed services voters who are absent with them; and (3) qualified voters who are absent from the United States, whether they are civilians or in the uniformed services.
What rights does UOCAVA give me?
If you are a qualified voter protected by UOCAVA, in elections for federal office, the state in which you are qualified to vote must (1) permit you to register to vote and request an absentee ballot; (2) send you an absentee ballot early enough, in most cases by the 45th day before the election, to give you time to receive it, vote it, and send it back, if you requested it by the deadline; (3) permit you to request and receive your voter registration form, absentee ballot request, and blank absentee ballot electronically; (4) permit you to cast a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot under certain conditions; (5) provide you with free access to a tracking system that tells you whether your ballot has been received by the appropriate state election official; and (6) accept otherwise-valid voted ballots even if they are not notarized, and even if they are printed on a nonstandard paper size or sent in a nonstandard type envelope.
What is a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)?
The Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) is an official blank write-in ballot that all UOCAVA voters can use if they have made a timely request for an absentee ballot from the state or county in time to send it back by their state's deadline. UOCAVA now requires states to accept these ballots in all elections for federal office. If a qualified servicemember receives a state-issued ballot after having already sent in a FWAB, the FVAP recommends that the servicemember vote that ballot and send it in. A state will only count one of the ballots. Servicemembers can find more information on obtaining and voting a FWAB on the FVAP website.
If a county is late in mailing absentee ballots to soldiers, what can the Department of Justice do?
Under Section 105 of UOCAVA, the Attorney General is authorized to bring civil actions to enforce UOCAVA requirements. When states have failed to make sure that ballots are sent to qualified servicemembers in a timely manner, the Department of Justice has successfully obtained court orders and consent decrees. Many of these have required states to extend their deadlines for receiving these ballots and to count the late-mailed ballots, even when they arrived after Election Day. In some cases, the states were required to make permanent changes to their laws or procedures to make sure the problems are not repeated in future elections. Through these cases brought to enforce the federal law, the Department has ensured that qualified servicemembers were able to cast their ballots, and know that they were counted.
Who can I contact if I have a question about my right to vote?
The FVAP administers many of the federal responsibilities under UOCAVA, and assists servicemembers and their families to facilitate their participation in the voting process. If you believe you have been denied any of the rights guaranteed by UOCAVA, you can contact the FVAP with the details, and they can forward the relevant information to the Department of Justice for assessment.
What is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”)?
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA), formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940 (SSCRA), is a federal law that provides protections for military members as they enter active duty. It covers issues such as rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.
What can I do if I am a servicemember whose rights under the SCRA may have been violated?
You should contact your nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office to see if the SCRA applies. Dependents of servicemembers can also contact or visit local military legal assistance offices where they reside. Please consult the military legal assistance office locator for each branch of the armed forces.