Is the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023 Ready for Primetime?
From overseas deployments to abrupt transfers, the lives of military families are often unpredictable. That’s why Congressman Chris Deluzio is introducing the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023. This landmark bill would extend USERRA protections to military spouses, providing them with job security should they relocate due to their partner’s military obligations.
- What is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)?
- How Does the Job Security Act of 2023 Provide USERRA Protections to Help Military Spouses?
- What Do Experts Say About the Impact of the Job Security Act?
- What Are Military Spouses Saying About the Act?
- Criticism of the Job Security Act of 2023
- What Can Military Spouses Do Now in Lieu of USERRA Protections?
Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) in 1994 to provide work, financial, and other USERRA protections for service members. Along with many service members are family members who often face unique challenges, especially regarding employment opportunities. Although the USERRA protects the employment rights of military service members, it does not necessarily extend this same protection to their spouses. For this reason, Congressman Chris Deluzio (PA-17) is bringing forth the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023. This bill would provide USERRA protections for the spouses of those serving in the military. The Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023 is an essential piece of legislation that could drastically improve the employment prospects of military spouses. Currently, many spouses find themselves without jobs due to the frequent relocation required of military families. In a 2021 survey of Active Duty spouses, 21% were unemployed (Office of People Analytics (OPA) 2023). Despite the challenges faced, these spouses need the security of a steady career, and this bill aims to help provide that. If passed, the legislation would extend USERRA protection to military spouses, allowing them to retain employment if forced to move due to military orders. Congressman Chris Deluzio has championed this bill to provide much-needed job security to military spouses. He and his colleagues are working to build support for the bill in Congress and ensure its passage. It can make a massive difference in the lives of military spouses and could be the first step in providing them with greater rights and protections in the future.
What is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)?
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that protects the rights of military members, veterans, and their families. Congress wrote and passed it in 1994, and it is to ensure that servicemembers are not discriminated against in the workplace as a result of their military service. USERRA protects servicemembers’ employment and reemployment rights, allowing them to retain their jobs while on active duty and reemployed in their civilian job when they return. USERRA also provides other essential rights and privileges to service members. For example, it guarantees soldiers the right to continue to accrue vacation time and seniority while away from their job. It also prohibits employers from punishing service members for taking time off for military duty (MyArmyBenefits 2022).
How Does the Job Security Act of 2023 Provide USERRA Protections to Help Military Spouses?
The Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023 seeks to extend the protections of USERRA to military spouses. Currently, USERRA does not provide any legal protection to spouses of service members. In the bill’s current state, spouses often face difficulty retaining their jobs when their family is required to relocate due to military duties. The proposed act would change this, allowing spouses to keep their job if forced to move. The bill would also provide other protections for military spouses. It would require employers to offer reasonable accommodations to spouses who need to take time off for military-related responsibilities. It would also prohibit employers from discriminating against military spouses in the workplace.
Meredith Smith, Government Relations Deputy Director of the National Military Family Association, stated, “We are concerned that the requirement to hold a position open for a military spouse following a military-ordered move would be seen as burdensome by employers, potentially making them less likely to hire spouses.” We agree, guaranteeing employment is a great benefit, but might have the opposite effect and reduce the marketability of spouses by adding additional burden and complexity to small businesses which “are credited with just under two-thirds (63%) of the new jobs created from 1995 to 2021 (U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2023).” The Department of Defense also developed programs to help spouses via education and certification.
What Do Experts Say About the Impact of the Job Security Act?
Experts agree that the Job Security Act of 2023 has the potential to improve the job prospects of military spouses significantly. The bill would provide much-needed job security and stability for spouses often forced to relocate due to military duties. It would also ensure that employers are not allowed to discriminate against military spouses, which would be a significant victory for those affected by this issue. Additionally, experts point out that the bill could help reduce the amount of income inequality among military families. Research shows that “female military spouses (SPs) are disadvantaged relative to matched civilian peers in terms of hours worked and earnings, paying particular attention to gaps among the highest educated women,” and the bill could help reduce this disparity (Meadows, et al. 2016).
According to a study on veterans and military families by Syracuse University, “Active-duty military spouses earn roughly 38% less than their civilian counterparts. The higher the education level, the larger the income gap between active-duty spouses and their civilian counterparts (Bradbard, Maury and Armstrong 2018).” By providing military spouses with greater job security and protection, the bill could help to reduce income inequality and give military families much-needed financial stability. Another study conducted by showed, “At 16%, the military spouse unemployment rate remains four times the current rate for all adult women (4.0% in May 2017) and three times higher than the rate for women between the ages of 20 and 25 (U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation 2017).”
What Are Military Spouses Saying About the Act?
While we have not polled military spouses directly, we expect them to respond enthusiastically to the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023. Many of them have experienced firsthand the difficulties of finding and retaining a job when they are required to relocate due to military duties, and they believe that the bill could help them to overcome this challenge. We imagine that many can appreciate that the legislation would extend USERRA protections to spouses and prohibit employers from discriminating against them in the workplace. In addition, many military spouses might be hopeful that the bill will help to reduce income inequality among their families. While the bill will provide military families with more significant job opportunities and more financial stability, we think the impact on small businesses might be counterproductive.
Criticism of the Job Security Act of 2023
Some groups have criticized the Job Security Act of 2023 for being overly broad and not providing enough protections for employers. Some groups claim the bill would be too costly for employers and could lead to job losses. They also argue that the legislation does not provide employers with enough incentive to retain military spouses. In addition, some legal experts have pointed out that the bill could conflict with existing state and federal laws. This could potentially lead to confusion and complicate the enforcement of the law.
What Can Military Spouses Do Now in Lieu of USERRA Protections?
- Research State-Specific Laws: While USERRA may not provide complete protection for military spouses, it’s crucial to research state-specific laws that offer some employment protection and benefits. Some states have enacted legislation to support military spouses, so familiarize yourself with these laws to understand your rights and options.
- Utilize the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP): The MSEP is a Department of Defense program that connects military spouses with partner employers committed to hiring and retaining them (Markets Wired 2022). Take advantage of this resource by exploring their job portal and networking opportunities to increase your chances of finding employment.
- Explore Remote or Freelance Work: With the rise of remote work opportunities, military spouses can consider exploring jobs they can do from anywhere. Freelancing platforms and websites offering remote job listings can be a great starting point to find flexible work options that accommodate your unique lifestyle.
- Build a Portable Career: Instead of relying on traditional employment, consider building a portable career that a spouse can maintain regardless of location. Focus on developing transferable skills across different industries or explore entrepreneurship opportunities that allow you to run a business from anywhere.
- Take Advantage of Education and Training: Many military spouses are eligible for education and training benefits through programs like MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts). Utilize these resources to further your education, earn certifications, or gain new skills to enhance your employability.
- Leverage Military Spouse Networks: Military spouse networks can be invaluable for finding job opportunities and support. Join online communities, attend local events, and connect with other military spouses who can provide insights, advice, and potential job leads.
- Seek Employment Assistance on Military Bases: Military bases often have employment assistance programs and resources tailored to support military spouses. Visit your local installation’s Family Readiness Center or Military and Family Support Center to access job counseling, resume assistance, and other employment-related services.
- Consider Remote Volunteering: If finding traditional employment is challenging, consider remote volunteering opportunities. Volunteering not only allows you to contribute to meaningful causes but can also help you gain valuable skills and experience that can enhance your resume.
- Pursue Professional Development: Enhance your professional credentials and increase marketability by pursuing professional development opportunities. Attend workshops, webinars, or conferences related to your field of interest, and consider joining professional associations that offer networking and career advancement resources.
Until the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023 becomes law, what can military spouses do to protect their career interests? Military spouses should stay informed about their rights under USERRA and seek legal counsel if they encounter employment-related challenges. Additionally, proactively networking and building professional connections in their chosen field can help military spouses secure new job opportunities in the event of a relocation. Military spouses can confidently and resiliently navigate the current employment landscape by taking these steps.
Congressman Chris Deluzio has proposed the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023, a bill extending USERRA protections to military spouses and providing them with greater job security. The proposed act can potentially make a considerable difference in the lives of military spouses. It could be the first step in providing them with more significant rights and protections.
Although the bill can potentially improve the lives of military spouses and make a positive difference in the lives of military families, we advise caution. We imagine this bill will significantly impact areas around military installations, locking up the limited number of open small business positions. Another consideration is small businesses owned by veterans and spouses that fall victim to government red tape. There is no quick fix to military-civil income inequality, but the work must start somewhere to ensure military spouses will have the same opportunities their non-military peers experience. We hope there will be robust debate and considerate conversation on the Job Security for Military Families Act of 2023 to ensure the federal government does not over-promise and underdeliver.
Sources / Credit
- Photo Credit: Malisunshine
- Photo Credit: GaudiLab
- Bradbard, Deborah A., Rosalinda Maury, and Nicholas J. Armstrong. 2018. “The Force Behind the Force: A Business Case for Leveraging Military Spouse Talent.” Syracuse University. February 2. https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ForceBehindtheForce.BusinessCaseforLeveragingMilitarySpouseTalentACC_02.21.18.pdf.
- Markets Wired. 2022. OCC Joins Military Spouse Employment Partnership. October 25. https://www.marketswired.com/us-treasury/office-of-the-comptroller-of-the-currency/occ-joins-military-spouse-employment-partnership/.
- Meadows, Sarah O., Beth Ann Griffin, Benjamin R. Karney, and Julia Pollak. 2016. “Employment Gaps Between Military Spouses and Matched Civilians.” Armed Forces & Society 42(3), 542–561. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X15607810
- MyArmyBenefits. 2022. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). October 24. https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil/Benefit-Library/Federal-Benefits/Uniformed-Services-Employment-and-Reemployment-Rights-Act-(USERRA)?serv=125.
- Office of People Analytics (OPA). 2023. “2021 Active Duty Spouse Survey (ADSS).” Military OneSource. February 9. https://download.militaryonesource.mil/12038/MOS/Presentations/2021-active-duty-spouse-overview-briefing.pdf.
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 2023. The State of Small Business Now. April 10. https://www.uschamber.com/small-business/state-of-small-business-now.