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It's the Law, But Not Everyone Follows It

About 31 percent of employers aren't aware of any laws protecting reservists.

September 18, 2003
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Related Topics: Employee Leave, HR & Business Administration
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The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, enacted in1994 and significantly updated in 1996 and 1998, provides protection and rightsof reinstatement for National Guard and Reserve members. USERRA bars any adverseemployment actions by an employer if the action is motivated even in part by theemployee’s military service. Employees must be excused from work for militarytraining or deployment, and must then be re-employed in the same position theywould have had if their employment had not been interrupted. Reservists areentitled to all rights and benefits that they would have attained if they hadbeen continuously employed.

    A 1999 Defense Department study found that a shocking 31 percent of employersare not aware of any laws protecting reservists. In an extensive 2002 U.S.General

    Accounting Office study, most of the reservists contacted reported that theiremployers comply with USERRA provisions, but many had complaints. Some said thattheir supervisors were hostile toward their reserve duty and had activelyencouraged them to leave the reserves. Others alleged employer misconduct that,if confirmed, would be a clear violation of the law, including being deniedmedical benefits upon their return and being forced to use vacation time formilitary duty. In one unit, more than 30 percent of the members surveyed saidthey had problems with their employers when they returned from an extendeddeployment to Bosnia.

    Reserve officials, reservists, and employers all commented to the GAO thateven in companies with good policies, reservists may face front-line supervisorswho do not always comply. One reservist reported that despite working for amajor corporation that has received numerous awards for its policy onreservists, he was placed on probation after returning from a nine-month Bosnia mobilization. HR’sjob does not end with rolling out a USERRA compliance policy; enforcement up anddown the line is necessary.

Workforce, January 2003, p. 35 -- Subscribe Now!

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