Contributed Column

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On Guard

by Brian Lindner

Know your obligations to your employees in the service

If you have ever hired or managed an employee who is in the National Guard or Reserve, you should be aware of an organization that exists to serve and support you. The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) founded in 1972 with the creation of an all-volunteer force. ESGR exists with only two customers in mind: employers and National Guard and Reserve members.

ESGR has served in Vermont since 1972 to help ensure that employers of guardsmen and reservists know about and comply with the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The Vermont Committee of ESGR actively reaches out to employers to offer training and provide human resources support, which they may use to be in compliance with USERRA.

Services of the Vermont committee include reaching out to employers to solicit their support for their associates who serve in the Guard or Reserve, and educating them on the added value that employees in the Reserve component bring back to the workplace. ESGR routinely sponsors BossLifts, which take business owners, bosses, and managers to military training locations so they can see what troops do in annual training and at other activities.

In those rare cases in Vermont when conflicts do arise between employers and the military service of their employees, ESGR provides a full and free ombudsman service under which we informally work to ensure that all parties are both educated and satisfied. Most conflicts arise from employers’ not understanding the law and/or military members’ not giving their employers reasonable notice of upcoming duty.

USERRA has some key provisions that employers and managers need to be aware of when hiring or employing Guardsmen or Reservists.

  1. Employees must be given a military leave of absence with no adverse effect on their civilian employment status. They cannot be required to take vacation time or to find a substitute to cover their jobs. It is important to note that all military duty is covered under USERRA, including service for which the member steps forward and volunteers.
  2. Upon returning from military service, the employee must be immediately reinstated in his/her former job.
  3. Once reinstated, the employee must receive the full accumulation of seniority as though he/she had never left.
  4. Health insurance and other benefits must be reinstated without delay.
  5. The employee must be given training, or retraining if needed, to continue with his/her former job.
  6. There can be no discrimination against the employee because of his/her military service in any aspect of employment.

The service member also has to fulfill several requirements, such as to notify the employer of his/her intent to return to work, and to have served honorably while on military duty.

ESGR is a tool that employers should feel free to use if they have any questions related to compliance with USERRA.

In general, since 1972 Vermont employers have routinely stepped up to the plate and have most often been far more generous to the Guardsman or Reservist than the law requires. For this we should all be proud.

To contact ESGR in Vermont go to www.esgr.org and click on “Contact,” then select “Vermont” and click on “Show.” You may also call our office at 802-485-1861 or e-mail to VTESGR@yahoo.com. •

Brian Lindner is Vermont chairman emeritus of the U.S. Department of Defense Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve and a volunteer since 1996.

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