woman shaking hands with employer

Laws protecting those who protect us

There are state and federal laws that protect current or former military members from suffering setbacks in their civilian careers because of past, present or future military service. Employers need to abide by these laws. Minnesota law also allows employers to give preference to military veterans in the hiring and promotion process. Find out more about how these state and federal laws apply to your organization.

Federal law

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that protects workers who leave their civilian jobs for voluntary or involuntary military service. The law requires employers to rehire veterans in their civilian jobs—with accrued seniority—if they meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must have left the job for the purpose of performing service in the uniformed services. That includes the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service. The Army National Guard and Air National Guard qualify when performing active duty training, inactive duty training or full-time National Guard duty.
  • Must have given advance notice verbally or in writing to the civilian employer. Advance notice is not required if it is precluded by military necessity or otherwise impossible or unreasonable. The law does not specify any minimum period of notice. Circumstances arise, especially in a mobilization scenario, when the individual has very little advance notice from military authorities.
  • Cumulative period or periods of service in the uniformed services (relating to that particular civilian employer) must not have exceeded the five-year limit. All involuntary service and some voluntary service is exempted from the five-year limit.
  • Must have been released from the period of service without having been “dropped from the rolls” or having received a punitive or other-than-honorable discharge.
  • Must have reported back to work in a timely manner or have submitted a timely application for reemployment.

Find out more about employer responsibilities under USERRA.

Minnesota law:

Minnesota law protects members of the military from being fired for taking part in required military duties. It’s also illegal for an employer to threaten negative consequences against an employee who wants to enlist in the military.

  • Prohibits an employer from asking about reserve or National Guard status if the employer’s intent is to discriminate against the applicant (Minnesota Statute § 181.535

Minnesota law prevents employers from asking about military status specifically if the employer would use that information in deciding not to hire or promote the person being interviewed. This doesn’t apply to government employees asking for this information to determine whether a veterans preference applies.

Private employers may have a hiring and promotion preference for veterans, provided that such a preference doesn’t violate any local or state equal employment opportunity law. Minnesota law also allows private employers to grant a preference to spouses of deceased or disabled veterans.

Most current or former military members are eligible for a hiring preference over nonveterans in hiring and promotion for most Minnesota public employment positions. Public employment means a position in state, county or local government.

Minnesota law prohibits employers from firing or taking other adverse employment action against an employee because that employee’s spouse, parent or child is a member of the military. The employer must also provide nonpaid time off for an employee to attend departure and return ceremonies, family readiness events and other official events held on behalf of an immediate family member who is in the military.

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