A bipartisan group of seven senators have introduced legislation to expand the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to include protection for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers who are called to active duty.
USERRA mandates that members of the uniformed services who hold civilian jobs are entitled to return to their civilian jobs upon completion of military service.
Transportation security officers (TSOs) employed by the TSA are currently excluded from USERRA protection. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress included TSOs in a special category of federal employees considered critical to national security and exempted them from USERRA protection.
According to Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), one of the bill’s sponsors, many transportation security officers “find themselves in a clearly unjust and inadvertent position.” Sen. Lieberman further noted that the proposed legislation would “simply require TSA to comply with USERRA, providing transportation security officers the protection of reemployment, to which every other type of worker – in both the private and public sectors – is eligible.” Sen. Lieberman is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
TSA has claimed that it voluntarily complies with USERRA, but without a legal mandate, National Guard members, reservists, and veterans who work as TSOs cannot be certain that they will be able to return to their jobs after a military deployment. According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), at least two TSOs have attempted to appeal TSA actions under USERRA but were unsuccessful when both the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and the Office of Special Counsel ruled that they were not currently entitled to USERRA protections.