ALP: I have employees currently serving on active duty in the military. What do I need to know about the recent changes to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act?
Employers should know that the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 signed by President Bush on December 10, 2004, increases employers’ obligations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Specifically, there are two changes to USERRA that merit attention. First, under USERRA, employers are required to provide temporary continuation of employer-sponsored health coverage to employees called to active duty where that employee’s coverage would otherwise terminate because of absence from work. Previously, the eligibility period for continuation of coverage was eighteen months; the new amendment extends this eligibility period to twenty-four months. The effective date of this amendment is December 10, 2004. Employers should contact their health care plan administrator at once to ensure the plan administrator is complying with this change if they have employees who have a right to the extended eligibility period.
The second change requires employers to provide notice of the rights and benefits of employees entering military service covered by USERRA and of the obligations of their employers. This notice requirement can be satisfied by posting it where other required notices (such as FMLA and EEO rights) are posted. This requirement becomes effective on March 10, 2005. The Secretary of Labor is charged with providing the required content of the notice before the effective date. Employers need to ensure they have the notice ready for posting prior to March 10.