Seyfarth Synopsis: Countless California employers have found that veterans make outstanding employees. As we approach the Veterans Day holiday, read on for a list of the benefits of hiring veterans, as well as helpful resources for veterans seeking employment. We further discuss some state and federal job protections for employees who are in the military.

Why Hire a Vet?

There are many good reasons to consider hiring veterans. First, employers can apply for federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) of up to $9,600. The California Employment Development Department is the WOTC certifying agency for California employers. You can learn more about this program here.

Moreover, veterans bring invaluable skills. They are trained to be team focused, mission oriented, responsible, dedicated, respectful, and accountable. And many have learned to work well under pressure, to adapt quickly to change, and to understand and respect the chain of command. These qualities can enhance the capabilities of any workforce.

California Resources for Veterans

For veterans seeking employment, California offers various services and benefits. Services include (1) helping veterans find jobs, (2) unemployment benefits while veterans seek jobs, and (3) apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs that pay veterans while they prepare for a sustainable career. The California Department of Veterans Affairs maintains numerous employment-related resources for veterans. It also sponsors a business enterprise program for disabled veterans who want to own a business.

Protection for Military Leave and National Guard Service

Employees who are called to active duty enjoy job protections, under both federal and California law. Protected employees include members of the reserve corps of the armed forces of the United States, the National Guard or the naval militia, and members of the California State Military Reserve.

Federal Law: USERRA

The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects employees who need time off from their civilian jobs for military service. To be eligible for employment rights under USERRA, (1) the employee must hold or have applied for a civilian job, (2) the total length of the absence cannot exceed five years, and (3) the employee must report to work or submit an application for reemployment in a timely manner.

USERRA contains many complex provisions beyond the scope of this discussion. Generally, USERRA provides that returning service members are to be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, enjoying the same seniority, status, and pay they would had if they had remained continuously employed. USERRA also requires employers to make reasonable efforts—such as training or retraining—to enable returning service members to qualify for reemployment. USERRA also provides that an individual performing military service is deemed to be on a furlough or leave of absence and is entitled to the non-seniority rights accorded to similarly situated individuals who are on non-military leaves of absence.

California Military Leave Laws

California, going beyond the protections afforded by USERRA, provides additional protections for all regular full-time, part-time, and probationary employees who need to be absent from work because of eligible military service, and also for military spouses.

Employees may be eligible to take up to 17 days of unpaid leave per year to engage in military training, drills, encampment, naval cruises, special exercises, or similar activities if they are a member of the reserve corps of the US armed forces, the National Guard, the Naval Militia, or the California State Military Reserve. California employers must not discharge a returning employee who was on active military duty with the National Guard, except for cause, within one year after being restored to the position.

In addition, employees who are the spouses or registered domestic partners have leave rights. California employers with 25 or more employees must grant up to 10 days of unpaid leave to employees who are married to a person who is on leave from a combat zone.

Workplace Solution: Next time you are hiring, consider whether a veteran might fit your bill. Your favorite Seyfarth attorneys are standing by to provide legal assistance with recruiting and hiring questions.