Emergency Military Leaves – Know the Facts


Last week Florence clobbered the Carolinas with her rainy, windy wrath. And while hurricanes don’t usually affect our areas in the Midwest, that doesn’t mean your workforce won’t be disrupted by the destruction she’s left behind.

The National Guard, a United States reserve military force, is comprised of National Guard military members in each state. These members can be deployed to help with any emergency, like the aftermath of hurricane Florence. Currently, there are around 350,000 guardsmen serving in the United States.

Typically, National Guard members are given only a few days’ notice before they are deployed and don’t know how long they’ll be gone. Employers need to be aware and educate themselves with the laws in case their employees get called to duty.

Under the Uniformed Services Employer and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a National Guardsman’s job protection includes the following:

  • Employers cannot require written confirmation from employees to verify the leave; verbal notice is sufficient.
  • Employees may not be penalized or retaliated against for leaving their current job to report for active duty.
  • When an exempt employee takes leave mid-week, he or she is entitled to a full weekly salary, if any work has been performed that week (under the Fair Labor Standards Act).
  • Employers must continue the existing employer-based health plan coverage for the employee and his or her dependents for up to 24 months while on leave. There is, however, no obligation to pay the employee’s wages while on duty.
  • Employees who are deployed cannot be forced to use sick or vacation time.
  • Employers may temporarily replace the employee on leave, but upon the employee’s return, the individual is to resume the position he or she left.

Those deployed need to keep their employer informed of potential return dates when the information becomes available, and once back from duty they must return to their job in a timely manner.

Good communication and working together with your employees who are in the National Guard is important to ensure a smooth transition out of their role at your organization, as well as back in.

Be sure to check out the MRA’s Understanding USERRA and FMLA Protections Related to Military Leaves, or call our 24-hour hotline at 866-HR-HOTLINE (866-474-6854) where our experienced HR Advisors are here to help.

Source: Maureen Siwula, SPHR, Human Resource Business Advisor, MRA - The Management Association