On Monday, June 8, the U.S. House unanimously passed H.R. 466, the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act. The legislation would amend the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to prevent employers from discriminating against employees because they are being treated for service-related medical conditions.
USERRA was enacted in 1994 to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services and to prohibit employers from discriminating against members of the military returning to work. The law requires employers to restore all benefits to previously employed returning service members and it prohibits employers from terminating service members for up to one year after returning from military duty.
The House-passed H.R. 466 would expand USERRA by barring employers from making an adverse employment decision against returning employees or job applicants who receive treatment for illnesses, injuries, and disabilities acquired due to military service. However, H.R. 466 would allow employers to terminate employees receiving service-related treatment if doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer or if the employee is a short-term hire.
Covered employees who receive service-related medical treatment would also be entitled to the seniority and other employment benefits determined by seniority had the employee been continuously employed.
Important to HR professionals, the legislation would not allow an employer to require an employee absent from work due to service-related medical treatment to use accrued paid leave to cover such time away from work, although it permits an employee to use such paid leave. In this way, H.R. 466 would appear to trump the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allowance that employers can require employees to exhaust accrued paid leave before accessing FMLA leave.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where prompt passage is expected later this summer. SHRM is reviewing the legislation and has yet to take a position on it.