If you are a service member, especially a National Guard reservist, you may have questions about how, or even if, to include your military status on your resume. It’s a troubling question that we get frequently. We often get callers suspecting they missed out on a great job opportunity or a second round interview, suspecting it was due to the National Guard status on their resumes.
Our initial reaction matches their own reasons for including the detail: we’re proud of their service and thank them for it. To us, a reservist suggests a loyal, dedicated, hard-working, and organized individual. What employer wouldn’t want that? But then our “Spidey Senses” go to work—and providing advice becomes a bit trickier.
File this note under practical advice—because while we have a legal response, your gut may tell you that sometimes your service is a huge “plus” on your resume and sometimes you may decide otherwise.
The truth is, we have represented clients who were denied phenomenal jobs due to their “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” military commitment. It’s pitiful. Sadly, however, in most cases it’s hard to prove because we don’t always have an email admitting that guard service was a reason for denying a second or third interview, or testimony about a conversation with a recruiter who plainly said that guard service played a role in the decision not to hire.
Here’s what the law provides, however. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is a Federal law1 that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA protects against discrimination on the basis of one’s uniformed service—meaning past, present, or even contemplated service—including service in a National Guard capacity. This includes protection against hiring decisions motivated by one’s service. A plaintiff need only prove that service obligations were one of potentially multiple “motivating factors” in the would-be-employer’s decision-making. A motivating factor “is one of the factors that a truthful employer would list if asked for the reasons for its decision.”2
This means, for example, if you’ve been told during an interview, verbally, or in an email, or a letter that your guard service would create a problem for a prospective employer and then interest in you disappeared, or if the prospective employer went radio silent after telling you that you were a great candidate, you may have a legal claim based on the employer’s failure to hire you.
Another notable thing about the USERRA law is that there is no statute of limitations—but you should never wait too long to ask an attorney about your rights if you think you’ve faced employment discrimination. Statute of limitations or not—it’s always harder to prove a case when the facts get stale and memories fade.
We are always happy to have a conversation with you about your experience. Call us any time and we can talk it out.Halunen Law attorney Benjamin Kwan represents employees who have been treated illegally in the workplace. He’s a dynamic advocate for wrongfully terminated employees, those thrust into a whistleblower role, and those who have experienced discrimination.
2. Kelley v. Me. Eye Care Assocs., P.A., 37 F. Supp. 2d 47, 54 (D. Me. 1999).