DoL Proposes Regulations Clarifying USERRA

September 21, 2004 ( - The Department of Labor's (DoL) Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS) has proposed regulations that would clarify the existing Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA).

>In an effort to promote greater compliance with USERRA – the act that states the conditions under which returning veterans can return to work – Frederico Juardbe Jr., the assistant secretary for VETS, has proposed regulations that, if approved, will offer “clear and consistent guidance” regarding the statute’s requirements, according to a BNA report.

>The proposed regulations would clarify that USERRA requires employers to treat returning service members as if they had been on furlough or a leave of absence when dealing with nonseniority rights and benefits. If an employer offers continued life insurance, holiday pay, or other such benefits to employees on furlough or a leave of absence, similar benefits must be offered to employees absent due to military service. The proposed regulations would also clarify service members’ health insurance coverage.

>As for employees returning from the service, the regulations would make clear that they must apply for reemployment within a certain time period, depending on their service duration.

>The DoL is currently requesting comment on the possibility of allowing health plan administrators latitude in developing reasonable requirements for employees to elect continuing coverage, as well as whether the regulation should specify a date by which time continuing coverage must be elected, and whether there should be the possibility of exclusion or a waiting period.

>The proposed regulations would also make clear that the law is not meant to impose seniority systems on employers with regards to returning service members. The regulations would also make clear the process that should be followed with regards to returning service members who were disabled. Also, the regulations clarify that such service members must provide employers with information regarding their disability.

>The proposed regulations would take effect 30 days after the publication of the final rule. However, the DoL is requesting comment on the feasibility of 30 days being enough time for the parties involved to come into compliance.

>The clarification of the act comes after a rise in complaints by returning service members regarding the reemployment process (See DoL Reminds Employers of Soldier-Rehire Law after Complaints Rise ).

>To make comments on the proposed regulations, please see , under “Docket No. VETS-U-04”.