In her continued effort to strengthen the economic climate for veterans, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz introduced legislation today to combat the job discrimination many veterans face when returning home from serving their country. Schwartz has a long record of fighting to provide veterans with good, stable jobs when they return home so they can support their families and regain their footing in civilian life.
The Servicemembers' Access to Justice Act strengthens the existing law that prohibits workplace discrimination against veterans returning from service. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (PA) introduced this legislation in the Senate on May 23, 2012.
Due to the extended length of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military relied heavily on the National Guard and Reserves. Hundreds of thousands of Americans left their families, their homes, and their civilian jobs to serve their country. Some of these brave men and women returned home to find that their employers would not promptly reinstate their civilian jobs as required by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). Schwartz's legislation provides service members with better protections under the law.
"The unemployment rate among veterans is 10 percent in Montgomery County, and in Philadelphia County is a staggering 16.6 percent. We absolutely cannot allow those who sacrificed so much for our country to be left with no job and no financial security when they return home," Schwartz said. "I have fought for expanded job opportunities for veterans since coming to Congress in 2005 and will continue to ensure our brave men and women in uniform can return home with the medical, educational, and job opportunities they need and deserve."
"No veteran should face job discrimination when they return home," Casey said. "That is why I introduced this legislation in the Senate and I am grateful to Congresswoman Schwartz for introducing this bill in the House. These veterans have served our country bravely and we should pass this measure to swiftly ensure they have common-sense protections in place upon their return."
"With the increased deployment of the National Guard and Reserve forces in the post-9/11 era, enforcing civilian employment protections provided for Guardsmen and Reservists has proven to be problematic," said The American Legion's National Commander, Fang A. Wong. "This legislation would make strides toward better protecting our service members by expanding their access to recourse. I applaud Congresswoman Schwartz's leadership in addressing this critical issue facing our nation's veterans."
The Servicemembers' Access to Justice Act will:
· Make it easier for service members to obtain justice when their employment rights are violated, by prohibiting employers from requiring service members to give up their ability to enforce their rights under USERRA in court in order to get or keep a job;
· Require a Government Accountability Office study of current employer education programs related to USERRA and the solicitation of recommendations for ways in which government agencies can cooperate to enhance employer education;
· Enhance the remedies available to service members who prove that their rights under USERRA were violated, by adding minimum liquidated damages for willful violations and punitive damages for violations committed with malice; and
· Require federal agencies to provide notice to contractors of potential USERRA obligations.