Benefits Q&A: What Protections Apply to ROTC Employees Under USERRA?

December 1, 2023

Julie Athey discusses the variety of protections employees who participate in ROTC have under the USERRA, which applies to all employers and employees.

Benefits Q&A: What Protections Apply to ROTC Employees Under USERRA?


We have several part-time employees who are college students and participate in the ROTC. What protections – if any – apply to them under the USERRA?


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides a variety of different protections to employees who serve or enlist in the military. Generally, the law applies to practically all employers and employees, including temporary, part-time, probationary and seasonal employees.

However, the law’s different protections do not apply equally to all categories of employees or all types of military service. For example, employers are not required to rehire employees who leave their employment to serve in the armed forces if their employment was for a brief, non-recurrent period with no reasonable expectation of significant or indefinite employment.

Similarly, USERRA offers limited protection to students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). While still in college, they are not considered to be “in the military,” and therefore most of the law’s protections do not apply to them. However, because they have entered into an agreement to serve in the military in the future, USERRA protects them from discrimination because of military service. In other words, you can’t discriminate against them because they have committed to serve in the military in the future.

Finally, any time an employee leaves a job to fulfill military commitments, USERRA’s full protections may apply. For a student in the ROTC, these protections could be triggered when they graduate and enter military service. Once that happens, the employer could be required to:

  1. Offer the employee continued health coverage (similar to COBRA);
  2. Satisfy other requirements regarding the employee’s benefits; and/or
  3. Rehire the employee after up to five years of military service.

For additional information, the U.S. Department of Labor offers extensive USERRA compliance assistance for employers, including an eLaws Advisor and an Employer Guide.

About The Author

Julie Athey, J.D.

Julie Athey, J.D.
Email As Director of Compliance & Legal, Benefits, Julie has more than 20 years of experience in compliance and law. Julie provides in-depth hands-on compliance training, advice and consulting for benefits and HR professionals. She has authored numerous manuals for HR professionals – including FMLA Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR and Wage and Hour Compliance: Practical Solutions for HR. Julie is also a frequent presenter at seminars, webinars and audio conferences on a variety of benefits, employment law and human resources topics.