Law protects National Guard members' civilian jobsImagine coming home from military training to face another hurdle in front of you – finding a job. Some National Guard soldiers are losing their civilian jobs while away performing their patriotic duties. Not only is this a disservice to the brave men and women who keep us safe, it’s against the law.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
Imagine coming home from military training to face another hurdle in front of you – finding a job. Some National Guard soldiers are losing their civilian jobs while away performing their patriotic duties.
Not only is this a disservice to the brave men and women who keep us safe, it’s against the law.
Brittany Barrett of Alexandria returned home from a weekend Guard drill at Fort Ripley. That Monday she received a phone call informing her that she no longer had a job.
“I was kind of shocked,” she said. “My employer said I should have saw it coming.” Barrett had worked for her employer more than a year before enlisting in the Guard.
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a Department of Defense agency, was established in 1972 to encourage civilian employers to support the military service of their employees. The agency assures that soldiers and civilian employers are abiding by the rights and responsibilities detailed in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA was enacted in 1994.
ESGR Ombudsmen mediate between employers and National Guard and Reserve members when complications arise. If an employee is terminated for reasons related to their military service, USERRA rights may have been infringed upon.
ESGR investigates the situation to see if the employee can return to employment or if the employer was within their rights in firing the individual. Employees may be discharged for conduct or nondiscriminatory reasons.
“Violations are dropping, not increasing,” said Paul Monteen, Minnesota ESGR state chair. He said as awareness of USERRA gains, employers are becoming educated on their employees’ rights and their responsibilities. “Usually it’s an act of omission – not commission,” when an employer terminates a guard member, he said.
Barrett said she informed ESGR but thought returning to work for the same employer would be awkward and tense. She is currently looking for work.
“I’m trying; it’s a little difficult,” Barrett said. She departs for basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina this June.
In addition to ESGR, soldiers might have their situation investigated by the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service or a private attorney, Monteen said.
Employers with as few as one employee must abide by the rules outlined in USERRA. In most cases, employees can expect to return to the same position, pay and benefits as when they departed.
For a better understanding of ESGR and USERRA, visit www.esgr.mil. Additional information on the National Guard can be found at www.nationalguard.mil.
Did you know?
1636 – National Guard was founded.
1856 – Minnesota National Guard was established.
1917 – 40 percent of the combat division in France during World War I were National Guard soldiers.
1954-1975 – 23,000 Guardsmen were activated during Vietnam; 8,700 were deployed to the country.
1991 – 75,000 Guardsmen were called upon for Desert Storm.
2001 – More than 50,000 Guard soldiers have been called, by both the state and federal governments, to combat terrorism following the September 11 attacks.
2005 – 51,000 Guard members provided aid after Hurricane Katrina.
Today - Tens of thousands of Guard members are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Statistical information provided by www.nationalguard.mil.