Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America

JWV Supports Changes to USERRA and SAJA

March 2009

The National Executive Committee of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, the National's oldest continuously active veterans' organization, voted unanimously to support changes to the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Act (USERRA) and the Servicemembers Access to Justice Act (SAJA). These changes became necessary after several Court decisions appear to weaken the protections given to members of the National Guard and Reserve who are returning from deployments and seeking to return to the workforce with their prior employers. Before these recent Court decisions, it was assumed that a returning servicemember had the right, under USERRA and SAFA, to pursue his/her claim against an employer who allegedly failed to comply with these federal laws. However, several courts have denied these returning servicemembers these rights where there is an employment contract between the servicemember and the employer deferring all disputes arising out of the employment relationship between the parties to arbitration. The Courts have said that these provisions in the personal employment contracts stand as a waiver of the right to file a claim in the courts.

National Commander Ira Novoselsky, a retired member of the Massachusetts National Guard, and Monroe Mayer, the Chair of the National Executive Committee, issued a joint statement after the vote of the National Executive Committee, thanking Senators Casey and Kennedy for their sponsorship of amendments to SAJA which would explicitly give all returning servicemembers the clear right to seek the assistance of the federal courts in getting back their jobs at the pay and status level they would have enjoyed but for their time in the military helping to defend this country. Commander Novoselsky said, "As our men and women return from harm's way in Iraq and Afghanistan, our courts should be reading these two statues liberally so as to assist these true American heroes get their jobs back rather than place obstacles in their way." Chairman Mayer added, "It is obvious even to the most casual observer that the Courts have misunderstood the intent of Congress who designed these laws to protect the men and women who serve this Nation. It's not designed to protect employers who seek to cheat these folks out of their jobs."

 

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