Employee Benefits Considerations For Military Reservists
The September terrorist attacks have led President Bush to call up tens of thousands of military reservists, whose employers must now determine what their obligations are under these conditions. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) provides special requirements that must be met by employers of these individuals.
The purpose of USERRA is to minimize the disruption of the lives of uniformed services personnel by providing for their prompt reemployment upon the completion of their service, and by preventing discrimination against them because of their military service. Essentially, USERRA provides for military service to be treated as a leave of absence.
Among the most important responsibilities of reservists’ employers are:
1. The employer may not discriminate in hiring, retention, promotion or any other benefit of employment, against an employee on the basis of membership in the uniformed services, application for membership, or performance of service.
2. When an employee is called to military duty, he must notify his employer prior to going to duty, unless a military necessity precludes him from doing so.
3. During the separation from service for military leave, the employee’s qualified plan accruals and vesting must continue, but the employer is obligated to provide benefits that are contingent on employee contributions or elective deferrals only to the extent that the employee makes payment of such amounts (as described at (9), below).
4. During the absence for military service, the employee may suspend repayment of an outstanding plan loan from a qualified plan or tax sheltered annuity. Upon resumption of employment, the repayment period is the original term of the loan plus the period of military service.