by Bennett Leigh
Most members of the reserve or National Guard know something about Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR)— they have certainly heard the acronym, and likely know it is an organization within the DoD that helps facilitate understanding between reserve component members and their civilian employers.
But many may not know all of the ways that ESGR can help them — particularly at times of Deployment and Reintegration.
Almost half of our military force resides in the National Guard and Reserve. Support of America’s employers and the employees they share with the nation ensures the viability of the all-volunteer force, and thus our national security.
ESGR advocates mutually beneficial initiatives; recognizing outstanding employer support; increasing awareness of applicable laws and policies; resolving potential conflicts between employers and their Service members; and acting as the employers’ principal advocate within DoD.
ESGR PROVIDES SERVICE MEMBERS:
Samples of military leave of absence forms, sample letters, service policies, and tips to help you avoid employment challenges.
Wallet cards and other resources to help you understand your rights and responsibilities under USERRA
ESGR volunteers attend mobilization/ demobilization briefings to answer questions. Call ESGR toll-free at 1-800- 336-4590, visit the website at www.esgr.mil or contact your local National Guard or Reserve unit for more information
Many employment challenges can be avoided by being candid with your employer about your obligations as a service member.
Be sure to:
- Tell your employer about your military assignment and skills you have gained in the military.
- Know your rights and responsibilities outlined by USERRA
- MANDATORY — Provide your employer/supervisor with drill schedules, annual training plans and any extra time-off requirements, preferably in writing, as early as possible
- Be aware that short active duty tours, exercises, and years of active duty for non-contingency operations are generally subject to a cumulative 5-year time limit under USERRA; after that limit is reached, you may no longer have reemployment rights
- Your employer is not obligated to reschedule you to make up work missed while you are per- forming military service, unless employees who miss work for non-military reasons are afforded that opportunity also; further, you cannot be required to find replacement workers for shifts you miss during military service
- You are allowed to use earned vacation while performing military service, but you cannot be required to do so.
- The law requires the employer to provide only an unpaid leave of absence for your time away; more information is available from the Office of Personnel Management site at www.OPM. gov and at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/
If your employer goes above and beyond before, during or after your deployment, show your appreciation by nominating your supervisor or organization for an ESGR award. Visit www.esgr.mil/ Service-Members-Family/Nominate-your-Employer to nominate your supervisor or company for the Patriot Award or the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.
In general, if an employee is absent from civilian employment because of military service, he or she is eligible for reemployment under USERRA by meeting the following criteria:
- The employer had advance notice of the employee’s service
- The employee returns to work per USERRA guidance
- The employee has not been separated from service with a disqualifying discharge, or under other than honorable conditions
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) is the Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for members of the National Guard and Reserve and their civilian employers. USERRA affects employment, reemployment, benefits, and retention for uniformed Service members.
USERRA applies to voluntary as well as involuntary military service, in peacetime as well as wartime. However, USERRA does not apply to state callups of the National Guard for disaster relief, riots, etc. Any protection for such duty must be provided by the laws of the state or territory involved.
ESGR provides neutral mediation of employment conflicts, but Congress authorized the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate alleged violations of USERRA. If DOL finds an employer has likely violated USERRA and is unable to secure voluntary compliance, DOL may refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for legal action.
To be eligible for protection under USERRA, the Service member must report back to work or apply for reemployment within the following guidelines:
- 1-30 days of service: Report next scheduled work day
- 31-180 days of service: Apply for reinstatement within 14 days following completion of service
- 181+ days of service: Apply for reinstatement within 90 days following completion of service
*After 8 hours rest plus normal travel time from military training site to place of civilian employment.