posted on April 01, 2009 00:02
YN1 John Crewy of the Navy Reserve remembered hearing a briefing about Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), but he wasn’t thinking about mobilizing just then. Besides, he thought the law only applied to large businesses, not the small family run furniture store that he worked for. When his unit was alerted, he knew his employer wouldn’t be happy about it; so he didn’t tell him until two weeks before he left for his deployment. His employer was mad, not only because he was leaving, but also because there was no time to hire a replacement. When YN1 Crewy returned from mobilization, he didn’t even try to go back to the furniture store
and was out of work for a long time.
YNC Mike Hooper saw the layoffs happening in his manufacturing company and figured it was just a matter of time before it happened to him, too. To avoid a layoff, he volunteered to
deploy with a unit that was going to Iraq, thinking that he would be safe for a year and that his company would have to rehire him once he got back. Upon return, he learned that the law was not on his side; he felt betrayed
and confused and 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 (NCESGR). 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. 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 posted a sample Deployment Notification Letter and Military Leave of Absence Form on www.ESGR.mil under the “Resources” section. Service members complete the blanks and provide the completed documents to their employers. These documents provide the 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 the military employees and their employers. Typically, it is a lack of open communication, especially in the initial stages, that leads to late notifications and increased friction between military member and employer. “The employer may be angry that the member is leaving; but waiting to tell the employer only makes things worse,” Bell says. “By starting the process early and by providing timely written notification, the military member can reduce the chances for problems later on.” Both documents also provide employers a resource should they have USERRA related questions. It’s important that the service member and the employer sign and retain a copy of these documents should the need arise to substantiate facts at a later date.
Despite the recent economic situation, service members must know that they are not protected against economic problems and resulting effects. If a company conducts layoffs, 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 that their decision to layoff the employee is not solely based on the
employee’s association with the military.
Equally, service members must consider the impact on their employers when volunteering for military duty. Unit commanders should monitor for repeated or frequent requests to volunteer for military duty. Eventually, the service member will return to his/her civilian employment and should, therefore, strive to maintain a positive relationship with his/her employer. Commanders may consider requiring their troops to provide their employers with timely notification documents. As such, military members would comply with the advanced notification rule and the military unit would have the added benefit of conducting positive employer outreach.