A win-win situation: committee offers tips to help reservists avoid problems with employers before they happen.
(Editor's note: The names of the two service members used in this article are fictitious. The scenarios nn' based on collective data provided by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve call center.)
Airman First Class Torn Paster of the Air Force Reserve remembered attending a briefing about Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, but he wasn't thinking about mobilizing. Besides, he thought the law only applied to large businesses, not the small family-run bread bakery where he worked.
When his unit was notified it was going to be mobilized, Airman Paster knew his employer wasn't going to be happy. So, he didn't tell anybody at work about what has happening until two weeks before he was scheduled to leave for his deployment.
His employer was mad, not only because he was leaving, but because there was no time to hire a replacement. When Airman Paster returned from mobilization, he didn't even try to return to the bread bakery and ended up being out of work for a long time.
Senior Airman Doug Lowley saw the layoffs happening in his construction company and figured it was just a matter of time before it happened to him, too. In an effort to avoid a layoff, Airman Lowley volunteered to deploy with a unit that was going to Iraq, thinking he would be safe for a year and his company would have to rehire him once he got back.
Upon returning from Iraq, he learned that the law was not on his side. Airman Lowley felt betrayed and confused, and he blamed ESGR for not helping him.
Both of these scenarios are typical of the cases reported to ESGR.
"If we could eliminate just one of these misunderstandings, the number of cases reported to ESGR would be significantly reduced," said Curtis Bell, director ombudsman, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. "Members of the reserve components must understand the law and how it applies to them. Only then can they protect themselves from potential problems."
Reserve personnel must provide notice to their employers in advance of their deployment, Mr. Bell said. ESGR recommends that the notice be provided "in writing" and, if at all possible, at least 30 days in advance of the deployment. To assist service members with this task, ESGR provides a sample Deployment Notification Letter and Military Leave of Absence Form on its Web site at www.ESGR.mil under the resources section.
Service members complete the blanks and provide the completed documents to their employers. These documents provide employers with need-to-know information, to include ESGR contact information.
The notification letter also functions as a tool to start the sometimes difficult communication process between military employees and their employers. Typically, it is a lack of open communication, especially in the initial stages of the deployment process, that leads to late notifications and increased friction between military members and employers.
"The employers may be angry that the members are leaving; but waiting to tell employers only makes things worse," Mr. Bell says. "By starting the process early and providing timely written notification, military members can reduce the chances for problems later on."
Both documents also provide employers a resource should they have questions related to the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act. It's important that service members and employers sign and retain a copy of these documents should the need arise to substantiate facts at a later date.
Mr. Bell said it's important for service members to realize that USERRA does not protect them against economic problems and their resulting effects. If a company conducts lay-offs, closes a branch or goes bankrupt, service members may lose their job as a result. USERRA does not protect service members from this type of job loss. Conversely, employers must ensure their decision to lay off an employee is not solely based on the employee's association with the military.
Mr. Bell urged service members to consider the impact on employers when considering volunteering for military duty. Unit commanders should monitor for repeated or frequent requests by Reservists to volunteer for military duty. Eventually, the service members will return to their civilian employment and should, therefore, strive to maintain a positive relationship with their employers. Commanders may consider requiring their troops to provide their employers with timely notification documents. In doing so, military members would be complying with the advance notification rule, and the military unit would have the added benefit of conducting positive employer outreach.
The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense organization based in Washington, D.C., encourages military members to create "win-win situations." Service members should consider their employers as strategic partners who support their efforts to serve the nation.
One effective way to bring employers into the partnership is to encourage them to sign an ESGR Statement of Support. Another way is to link the company or business Web site to the ESGR site. This link would provide company managers and supervisors with easy access to the employer resources offered and ensure their company is in compliance with the law. These two very easy steps let employers know they are doing their part in support of the nation by supporting their military employees.
The mission of ESGR is to develop and promote a culture in which all American employers support and value the military service of their employees. The organization accomplishes this mission by recognizing outstanding employer support, increasing awareness of USERRA and resolving conflict through mediation.
For assistance with employer-related questions relating to ESGR or USERRA, visit the organization's Web site at www.esgr.mil or call toll free 800-336-4590.
Army Maj. Elaine M. Gullotta
(Major Gullotta is an Army National Guard public affairs officer assigned to NCESGR.)
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|Author:||Gullotta, Elaine M.|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2009|
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