March 27, 2014

National Employment Lawyers Association
(202) 898-2880 ext. 115;

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NELA Recommends USERRA And Tax Code Reforms To Protect Servicemembers’ Employment Rights

(Washington, DC) – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights And Agency Action held a hearing to examine whether current laws are protecting "Access To Justice For Those Who Serve." Subcommittee Chair Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) presided at the hearing.

NELA Legislative & Public Policy Director Julie M. Strandlie stated, "NELA commends the Subcommittee for convening this hearing. The Department of Defense increasingly relies on National Guard and Reserve forces for operational missions around the world. Since September 11, 2001, for example, nearly 900,000 reservists have been called up to Federal active duty for such missions and more than 300,000 have served on multiple call-ups. It’s critical that the laws that protect National Guard and Reservists’ civilian jobs are strengthened."

NELA submitted testimony for the record, prepared by NELA member Kathryn S. Piscitelli, urging Congress to reform the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Internal Revenue Code to ensure that servicemembers are treated fairly by both their employers and the Internal Revenue Service. USERRA ensures veterans and servicemembers that their jobs will not be jeopardized by their military service.

Among these reforms, NELA and its coalition partners strongly endorse two bipartisan bills, the Servicemember Employment Protection Act of 2014, soon to be reintroduced by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and the Civil Justice Tax Fairness Act (CJTFA, S. 1224/H.R. 2509), sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The Pryor/Murkowski legislation would ban forced arbitration of USERRA claims and provide servicemembers with additional Family and Medical Leave Act benefits. The CJTFA would end unfair taxation of settlements or awards received by individuals in employment cases brought under civil rights and worker protection laws, including USERRA.

NELA Executive Director Terisa E. Chaw added, "We, as lawyers and as Americans, must do all we can to help servicemembers who have suffered violations of their employment rights by improving USERRA’s enforcement and remedial provisions. NELA, our members, and our Affiliates are honored to serve as advocates for servicemembers, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to do so in partnership with the Reserve Officers Association and other organizations that support our nation’s military and their families."

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The National Employment Lawyers Association advances employee rights and serves lawyers who advocate for equality and justice in the American workplace. NELA provides assistance and support to lawyers in protecting the rights of employees against the greater resources of their employers and the defense bar. It is the country's largest professional organization exclusively comprised of lawyers who represent individual employees in cases involving employment discrimination and other employment-related matters. NELA and its 69 circuit, state, and local affiliates have more than 3,000 members around the country.
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