Mississippi Employers Must Allow Employees to Take Military Leave

On May 8, 2018, Gov. Bryant signed SB 2459 into law, which expands reemployment protections for military service members and veterans. The new law mandates that a service member or veteran be restored to his or her previous position after returning from training with the Armed Forces in another state.

Specifically, employers must allow eligible employees to take an unpaid leave of absence to perform duties or receive training with the US, MS, or another state's armed forces, including active state duty, state training duty, or other military duty authorized under federal armed forces or National Guard law.

Employers must reinstate eligible employees returning from military leave to the same position or a similar position with the same status, pay, and seniority if they’re still qualified to perform the duties of that position. Employees returning to work after military leave must provide evidence of their satisfactory completion of duties or training with the US or MS armed forces.

Importantly, employers may not retaliate or discriminate against employees or applicants who are members of any reserve component of the US armed forces or former members of the US armed forces who were discharged or released from active military duty (except duty for training purposes) under other than for dishonorable conditions. Specifically, employers may not deliberately deny these employees and applicants or discriminate against them in compensation or conditions of employment based on active or former membership. This likely means that benefits offered to non-service member employees must also be provided to employees who are, or were, service members. Employers also can't use threats of physical or other harm to discourage employees or applicants from enlisting in any reserve or active component of the US armed forces.

Employers that violate the retaliation prohibition are subject to criminal prosecution and could be fined, imprisoned for up to six months, or both. Thus, employers in MS should ensure leave and hiring policies and procedures are updated in accordance with these new provisions. This law is effective July 1, 2018.

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