Does military leave apply to someone who decides to join military while employed?

A friend had an odd situation at work yesterday where an employee abruptly notified her supervisor that she joined the army for a 3 year commitment and was leaving in 4 days.
My friend now believes since her employer offers military leave benefits that they have to continue paying this employee for up to 18 months and have a position for them if they decide to return.
I said I thought it sounded a bit out of bounds from what military leave actually covers. That it is intended to cover employees currently or previously in the military who are called up for active duty. Not for someone looking to make a career change, join the military, and collect two checks for 18 months.
But since I have no experience with this stuff maybe I’m talking out of my ass.
So, if she’s right and the company is going to pay this person, what’s keeping someone with plans to enlist in the service from getting a civilian job first, enlist, and then claim military leave?
(I know this probably varies by state and employer)

According to everything have been able to find, military leave does not have to be paid. Some states require public employers to pay for some amount - in my state, it’s up to 30 days a year. Additionally , everything refers to the person being “activated” which sounds like it’s contemplating a reservist or member of the National Guard being called up for active duty rather than someone newly enlisting - who wouldn’t need to be activated because they are on active duty as soon as they start training.

Those protections are for being activated for the Guard and Reserve. If somehow they joined the Guard or Reserve and it came with a three year training commitment then their job has to be held for them. That’s up to 5 years. It seems highly unlikely. Military leave is not paid. My state has 30 days paid for reserves and 90 days paid for Guard per year but that’s for government employees only. That’s not federal law.

If you are joining active duty that’s different. You picked a new career. You are not a citizen soldier. You are a full time soldier. You don’t get to have two jobs.


From the brevity of the OP, it sounds like the PIQ (person in question) has decided to join active-duty military. Leave and Guard/Reserve benefits do not apply. The point of USERRA is to protect those Guardsfolk and Reservists from employer’s malicious intent when they are called up to active service in their respective units. This protection does not exist for Active Duty, as @LSLGuy says. She’s leaving one job for another? She’s self-terminating to join active duty, and the employer has no obligation once she walks out the door.

I don’t know what she means by “military leave benefits” from her employer, otherwise.

Does she work in a delicatessen? 'Cause I smell baloney.

Some companies have their own military leave policies, which may include either partial or even full pay while on military service. It sounds like this particular company may have such a policy. If so, the specifics of that are up to that company.

As others have already pointed out, USERRA protections apply to members of the Guard and Reserves, not to Active Duty personnel. And those protections require the employer to provide unpaid leave. They also forbid an employer from requiring the employee to use other forms of leave to which they may be entitled; to treat a period of military leave as regular employment for purposes of seniority, time in service, and similar provisions of employment if the employer has such; and to reinstate the service member in their old position, or the nearest equivalent if reinstating them would be an undue burden (such as the position having been eliminated).


All of those benefits also require reasonable notification by the service member. I personally had to give an employer notice after close of business that I wouldn’t be coming in the next day - or for the next 180+ days. But that’s because I only got the call myself after I got home from work to report for mobilization the next morning. That kind of notice was unfortunately not all that uncommon in 2002-2003. In 2021, though, I can’t imagine a service member only having four days of notice for a three year(!) commitment.

And, I agree, that really sounds like a three-year Active Duty enlistment, which isn’t covered by USERRA, not Guard or Reserve service. One caveat, though.

I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves, and my MOS required Foreign Language School, which can be pretty lengthy. My Initial Entry Training took about two years. I think that’s the longest Initial Entry Training; I can’t think what IET would take three years, but it’s just vaguely possible, I suppose. If, and that’s a big “if”, the individual in question signed up for a Guard or Reserve position with a three year IET, they would be covered by USERRA. I’m having trouble imagining they would receive orders to ship out for IET only four days after enlisting - it usually takes weeks or months for the next available IET slot - but I suppose it’s just vaguely possible.

Altogether, though, it really sounds like either the individual is deeply confused on how this all works, or thinks they can put one over on the company.

I was not the person who suggested that. It was @Loach.

My military experience is as active duty / Regular only; I was never Guard or Reserve. But post-military I was a union official dealing with our contractual arrangements with our employer and USERRA as it was in the 1990s and thereafter. IMO/IME the folks above have nailed it. Something about the OP’s friend’s story is confused or missing.

The idea of a statutory right to two paychecks for one job is nutso. Were it so I certainly would have done so myself. My up close and personal info is quite old, but I’d almost certainly have heard about any changes that sweeping.

Whoops! I owe you twenty pushups. @Loach, I owe you forty.

Not if yer retired and ‘double-dipping’ :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

“On the four count. . .”

I sure hope some recruiter didn’t suggest this would work.

Recruiters sometimes slip into unethical behavior but that level of outright lie would be…highly unlikely by a recruiter. I am guessing this person has enlisted in the active duty military and will thus forfeit civilian employment.

Exactly. The whole idea is that if someone’s in the NG or Reserve, and their state or Uncle Sam calls them up for duty, they won’t lose their job because they’re doing their NG/Reserve duty. Imagine all the asshole employers who would fire NG/Reserve people if they could, when those people get called up for post-hurricane aid, or to set up COVID hospitals, or whatever. That’s what this is trying to prevent.

But in this case, like the others have said, she’s essentially taken a new job as a full-time soldier, so she’s basically quitting her current job with 4 days notice. They have no obligation to hold her job for the term of her enlistment whatsoever.

Where my understanding is unclear, is what sort of leave is mandated for an existing employee who joins the NG/Reserve while employed. Is their employer required to hold their spot while they go to basic training/advanced school?

Absolutely. Here’s the pull quote from the U.S. Department of Labor “pocket guide”:

If it were otherwise, it would make recruiting pretty difficult for the Guard and Reserve. If recruits risked losing their regular full-time job to enlist for intermittent part-time employment (“one weekend a month, two weeks year”), the recruitment pool would be almost entirely limited to the currently unemployed.

When you mentioned above that your initial entry training took about two years, was that two years full-time? Because while I’m sure it would be hard to recruit people if they had to risk their civilian jobs to enlist and take three or four months of full-time training for an intermittent part-time job, that calculation might be different if it involved a year or two of full time training - I would think that in many cases a year or two of full-time training might qualify a person for a better civilian job. If you mean a few weeks here and there over the course of two years, that’s something different.

You are right, it’s quite difficult. There are only a few very specialized jobs that take more than a few months to train. It can be quite difficult to fill them. They also tend to be slots that have very specific and tough prerequisites. Therefore they tend to be the MOS that get big enlistment bonuses.

In the later years of my military career I had to change MOS again. I did have the opportunity to try to switch to drones but the training was very long and with my family situation I just couldn’t do it. But there would be no problem with my job. There tends to be a lot of government employees in the guard and reserve. Government jobs tend to be better at following the law and not looking for legal means to screw you because you are serving.

On one deployment we had a guy who was a retired state trooper who was on paid military leave from his job at the prosecutors office. He was a triple dipping son of a bitch.

It was two years, full time, start to finish, continuous service. It also wasn’t supposed to be. When I enlisted, I was scheduled for Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training, which should have been about 5-6 months total. I was supposed to then return to my Reserve unit, which would then send me to Foreign Language School at some point down the line. I completed Basic and AIT, and was actually in the Travel Office at AIT, waiting in line to get my tickets home, when I was pulled out of line by my Drill Sergeant, who had orders sending me on to FLS for an additional 18 months of foreign language training. Needs of the Army. I had to apply for a special leave which IET Soldiers didn’t usually receive at that point in their training when I first arrived at FLS in order to go home, vacate my apartment and make arrangements for an additional 18 month absence.

Note, as @Loach indicated, and as I indicated upthread, this is a pretty extreme example. There are (or were) a handful of MI specialties that required foreign languages, but they preferentially recruited individuals who already had foreign language proficiency, precisely because the initial schooling is so long and arduous (and expensive for the military). I’m not aware of any other MOSes that require anything like that time commitment (but there may well be some).

And, just BTW, I actually tried to apply my skills to get a better civilian job. Nonesuch. Civilian employers looking for the kind of foreign language skills I had wanted native speakers, or at worst someone with near-native fluency, which even 18 months of hardcore training didn’t give me. And a lot of military skills just aren’t transferable. It’s gotten better now, but when I was serving, for example, Combat Medics weren’t generally considered qualified to serve as paramedics.

It’s always the lawyers that know the loopholes like this. :money_mouth_face:

Thank Og my badass PowerPoint Ranger skillz were sought out by the aerospace/defense sector.

MRE eatin’? Notsomuch.

I can’t count how many times I’ve wanted to call in an airstrike on my own position during a pitched battle over IT deliverables, schedule, and budget. But I’ve never had the air assets available.

One can dream though. BOOM!!! :wink:

Hell there are more times than not I want to pop screening smoke during a meeting, and run out of the conference room.

::sigh:: But I value my job’s paycheck.

I can see the similarity in job, but I wouldn’t think that it would just generally transfer. I would assume that a paramedic sees a much wider diversity of injury and ailment than a combat medic.

Sure, but my point was that military training often, indeed usually, doesn’t give you any training or certification that’s applicable to the civilian sector, even when the military version is longer and more intensive than the closest civilian equivalent. So quitting your full-time civilian job to perform Initial Entry Training/Initial Active Duty for Training, when that training doesn’t even qualify you for any civilian job, much less a “better” one, would be a really hard sell for recruiters. Hence, USERRA protects service members’ civilian employment even when they have to take extended leaves from that employment for initial training.