LAW REVIEW 1089
USERRA Most Definitely Applies to
National Guard Members Performing Border Protection
By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN
22.214.171.124—USERRA Coverage for National Guard Service
Q: I am an NCO
in the Arizona Army National Guard. I am
currently on duty within the State of Arizona, near the border with Mexico,
participating in the border protection mission.
My orders cite title 32, United States Code, section 502(f). I am concerned about the question of whether
I have rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights
Act (USERRA). I left a good job at a
store in Phoenix when I went on active duty, and I want to return to that job
when I am released from this period of service.
I spoke to a fellow NCO—who works for the unit’s judge
advocate. My fellow NCO quoted the judge
advocate as saying that I am not covered by USERRA because I am in a “title 32
status” rather than a “title 10 status” and because I am serving within the
State of Arizona. Now, I am greatly
concerned that I may not get my job back, and others within our unit have the
same concern. Please tell me—am I
covered by USERRA for this current set of orders?
A: Please be assured that you are most definitely covered
by USERRA for this period of service. I
suspect that the judge advocate did not say that you are not covered. The NCO probably misunderstood what the judge
advocate said. In any case, the judge
advocate should be giving out advice directly, not through his NCO.
As I explained in detail in
Law Review 0766 and other articles, you must meet five eligibility criteria to
have the right to reemployment after a period of service:
You must have left a position of civilian
employment for the purpose of performing voluntary or involuntary service in the uniformed services.
You must have
given the employer prior oral or written notice.
period or periods of service, relating to the employer relationship for which
you seek reemployment, must not have exceeded five years. All involuntary service and some voluntary
service are exempted from the computation of the five-year limit. Please see Law Review 201 for a detailed
discussion of what counts and what does not count.
You must have
been released from the period of service without having received a punitive or
You must have
made a timely application for reemployment with the pre-service employer, after
release from the period of service.
The issue in your case comes
down to: Does your current service under
section 502(f) of title 32 of the United States Code qualify as “service in the
uniformed services” for purposes of USERRA.
The answer to that question is clearly
USERRA is codified in Title
38, United States Code, sections 4301-4335 (38 U.S.C. 4301-4335). Section 4303 of USERRA defines 16 terms used
in this law, including the term “service in the uniformed services.”
“(13) The term ‘service in
the uniformed services’ means the performance of duty on a voluntary or
involuntary basis in a uniformed service under competent authority and includes
active duty, active duty for training, initial active duty training, inactive
duty training, full-time National Guard
duty, a period for which a person is absent from a position of employment
for the purpose of an examination to determine fitness of the person for any
such duty, and a period for which a person is absent from a position of
employment for the purpose of performing funeral honors duty as authorized by
section 12503 of title 10 or section 115 of title 32.” 38 U.S.C. 4303(13) (emphasis supplied).
USERRA does not define the
term “full-time National Guard duty,” but that term is defined in title 10 of
the United States Code, as follows: “The
term ‘full-time National Guard duty’ means training or other duty, other than
inactive duty, performed by a member of the Army National Guard of the United States
or the Air National Guard of the United States in the member’s status as a
member of the National Guard of a State or territory, the Commonwealth of
Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia, under section 316, 502, 503, 504, or 505 of title 32 for
which the member is entitled to pay from the United States or for which the
member has waived pay from the United States.”
10 U.S.C. 101(d)(5) (emphasis
Section 502 of Title 32 is
one of the Title 32 sections specifically mentioned in the definition of
“full-time National Guard duty.” Section
502(f) is a part of section 502. Your
orders cite section 502(f), so it is utterly clear that your current duty
qualifies as “full-time National Guard duty” and thus as “service in the
uniformed services.” You will most
definitely have reemployment rights at the Phoenix store after you complete
this period of service, provided you meet the other USERRA conditions as to
prior notice to your employer, the five-year limit, release from service under
honorable conditions, and timely application for reemployment.
Please print this article and
post it on bulletin boards and other appropriate places for the National Guard
members on the Southwestern Border Protection Mission. We need to answer this ugly rumor that these
National Guard members are not protected by USERRA.
If you need assistance in
dealing with your civilian employer about your service in the National Guard or
Reserve, call the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and
Reserve (ESGR) at 800-336-4590.
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