Private Sector Employees
The federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides National Guard members and reservists the right to go back to their jobs after completing active service. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against service members based on their military service. USERRA applies to all employers, regardless of size. National Guard members and reservists are entitled to return to the same job status, pay and benefits as they had when they went on active duty. In addition, USERRA states that military service cannot be considered a break in employment for benefits, such as pensions and Family and Medical Leave.
Employers are not required to pay employees who are on a military leave of absence, nor does USERRA require the employer to keep paying for health insurance. Nonetheless, the service member may continue existing health coverage (including for dependents) for up to 24 months while in military service. Moreover, the service member is entitled to immediate reinstatement of health insurance (including for dependents) with no waiting period or no exclusion for pre-existing conditions (other than military-related injuries).
To be eligible for these protections, a National Guard member or reservist must take the following steps:
Give advance notice before leaving. Be on active duty less than 5 years. (Injuries incurred in military service may extend this period for 2 years.) Not be dishonorably discharged or separated under other than honorable conditions. Report back to work in a timely manner after discharge. The time for returning to work depends on how long the service member was on active duty. For more information:
An ombudsman for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is available to assist employers and military members with employment issues from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday at 1-800-336-4590. Contact U.S. Department of Labor, 1-800-4-USA, or http://www.dol.gov/vets. State Employees
In addition to all rights provided under the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Maryland State employees who are members of the National Guard or reservists have additional rights when activated for military duty. Employees on active military duty may be put on Military Administrative Leave and may receive the difference between the employee's active duty base salary paid by the federal government and the employee's base salary or direct wages. For more information, contact the Maryland Department of Budget and Management, Office of Personnel Services and Benefits, 410-767-1011, or 1-800-411-5123. The website is www.dbm.maryland.gov.
In addition to all rights provided under the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), federal government employees who are members of the National Guard or reservists have additional rights when activated for military duty. A federal employee who is a member of the National Guard or reserves is entitled to 15 days of paid military leave each year for active duty, active duty training, or inactive duty training. An employee on military leave under this provision is entitled to full civilian salary. In addition, employees who are called to service in support of a “contingency operation” are entitled to 22 days of military leave per year and can be paid the greater of the employee's military or civilian pay.
For more information, contact the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, 202-606-1800. The office also has a fact sheet on military leave that can be viewed at www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/MILITARY.ASP. In addition, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel is available for complaints about potential violations of USERRA rights at 202-254-3620, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Civil Relief from Certain Obligations
The federal Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides temporary suspension of legal proceedings and financial transactions for individuals in active military service. The Act extends significant protections, including:
Automatic Stay of Legal Proceedings: The Act mandates an automatic 90 day stay of civil proceedings against a service member. The service member must request the stay in writing and state that due to military service, the individual is unable to appear. The judge has discretion to grant a stay of more than 90 days. This protection does not apply to criminal proceedings.
Interest Rate Cap of 6 %. A service member is entitled to reduce the interest rate to 6 % for any financial obligation, such as for credit cards, loans, mortgage (but not student loans), entered into before active military service. Creditors must forgive the interest above 6 %, not merely defer it. The service member must give the creditor written notice and a copy of the service member's military orders in order to receive the reduced interest rate. This notice must be given no later than 180 days after termination or release from military service. The rate reduction is effective as of the date the service member was called into service. Dependents of the service member may be extended the protections as well if they apply to a court and show that their ability to meet the debt obligation has been materially affected by the service member's military service.
Right to Terminate Real Property Lease. A service member who enters a lease for $2,400 or less a month cannot be evicted without a court order. In addition, a service member may terminate, without penalty, leases and rental agreements entered enter before or during military service under certain conditions. The service member must be called into active service for at least 90 days.
Right to Terminate Car Lease: A service member who is deployed for more than 180 days may terminate an automobile lease. The service member must provide written notice of the termination and return the car within 15 days of the written notice.
Deferred Income Tax Collection. Income tax due by a service member in active duty may be deferred for a period of time. Moreover, a state or local government cannot use the military compensation of a non-resident service member to increase the tax liability imposed on other income earned by the service member or spouse subject to taxation. For more information about the rules regarding Maryland state taxation rules, contact the Maryland Comptroller's Office, 1-800-MD-TAXES, or http://individuals.marylandtaxes.com/publications/taxtips/personal/tip55.asp.
Protection Against Insurance Cancellation. Professional, health or life insurance companies cannot terminate a policy of a service member who is unable to pay premiums due to active military service. A service member may also suspend insurance policies while on active duty.
For more information about credit protections under the SCRA, contact the federal Comptroller of the Currency's Compliance Division at 202-874-4428; or the Community and Consumer Law Division, 202-874-5750.
Service members may want to contact a U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance Office:
Fort Meade (Army), 301-677-9536Fort Detrick (Army), 301-619-2221Andrews (Air Force), 301-981-2042USCG Yard (Coast Guard - Maintenance and Logistics Command Atlantic), (757) 628 4192Aberdeen Proving Ground (Army), 410-278-1583
Small Business Assistance
Maryland has a program to provide financial support to small business employers of and the businesses owned by activated service members. For more information, contact the Governor's Office of Business Advocacy and Small Business Assistance at 410-767-6300.
In addition, through its Disaster Business Loan program, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides loans to businesses needing help during a period that an essential employee is ordered into active service. To apply, contact the SBA at 1-866-659-2999, or email@example.com.
Students who are in the National Guard are allowed to withdraw from any public institution of higher education in Maryland without negative consequences if the student's National Guard Unit is activated and deployed. In addition, Maryland law mandates that public institutions of higher education assist National Guard students in completing their course requirements.
Maryland also has two scholarship programs for service members. The first is the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship, which is available for veterans and their family members. The second is the Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflict Scholarship, which is available to returning veterans and active service members who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflict.
For more information about the scholarship programs and for a list of colleges and universities that offer tuition waivers to service members, contact the Maryland Higher Education Commission, 410-260-4500, or 1-800-974-0203.
Service members and their spouses who are registered voters in Maryland are entitled to vote by absentee ballot. An absentee ballot application may be downloaded at www.elections.state.md.us. For more information, contact the Maryland State Board of Elections at 410-269-2840, 1-800-222-8683, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about available benefits to service members, contact the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs, 410-260-3838, 1-866-793-1577,or visit www.mdva.state.md.us.
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372