What is Military Leave?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2019
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The United States (US) Armed Forces is an essential part of American society. The individuals in the military accept the heavy responsibility to protect their land and the citizens of that land. However, all soldiers are not full-time soldiers. Some are Reservists, which are individuals who serve as soldiers part time but are prepared to be called into active duty at anytime. Military leave refers to the time that a Reservist is relieved of his civilian duties to fulfill military obligations.

Reservists are generally required to work two days per month and an additional two weeks within a year. There may be times, however, when these individuals are needed and are, therefore, called into active duty. Since many Reservists hold civilian jobs, there is the possibility that these two obligations could result in conflict. For this reason, laws have been developed that dictate how military leave should be handled.

Many companies develop military leave policies. Even when this is not the case, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a body of federal legislation that outlines many of the laws that regulate how civilian employers must handle military leave. When a company develops its own military policy, it must not violate USERRA.


Laws included in USERRA state that when a person with a civilian job is called into active service, his civilian employer must accept his notice. Employers do not have the authority to prohibit an employee from taking a military leave of absence. Furthermore, employers cannot place conditions on the employee, such as ordering him to remain on the job until a replacement is found or forcing him to stay until the replacement is trained.

In order for the rules of military leave to apply, the job the Reservist holds must not be limited to a year or less. Consider, for example, a Reservist who gets a summer job at an amusement park. If he is called into active duty and misses the remainder of the season, the amusement park is under no obligation to hire him again in the upcoming season. This lack of protection also applies to individuals who work a series of temporary jobs which all are shorter than a year.

When a person has a civilian job and goes on military leave, it is generally at the discretion of the employer to decide whether or not the payment of his civilian salary should continue. The law does not require employers to pay their employees for these absences. However, the law does prevent the employer from forcing the employee to use accrued civilian leave to fulfill his military obligations.


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