the wake of the events of September 11, President George W. Bush
activated more than 10,000 military reservists in a partial mobilization
of the nation's armed services, and that was just the beginning.
As a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by November 2004
almost 180,000 reservists have been called to active duty, temporarily
leaving their communities and workplaces.
laws and legislation protect members of the uniformed services from
certain workplace uncertainties, allowing reservists and guardsmen
to leave their civilian posts to serve their country without having
to worry about job security, delayed compensation, revoked benefits,
or other adverse employer reactions.
"Weekend warriors" in peacetime
Normally, a reservist
voluntarily signs up for part-time duty, sacrificing two days a
month for training plus 15 days a year for an annual tour, a schedule
that has led some observers to refer to them as "weekend warriors."
In addition, if the reservist has been called into action due to
a declared national emergency or in the protection of life and property,
they are entitled to an extra 22 days of leave. Not only are they
compensated for their part-time military duty, they also receive
free training and educational opportunities, retirement plans, and
medical benefits while on duty, as well as special allowances, including
commissary discounts reserved for military personnel. Most reservists
work full time, electing to use their annual time off to fulfill
their tour requirements. Only if the president designates reservists
necessary in times of war or emergency are they expected to assume
full-time military duties. More than 1.2 million men and women serve
in the military reserve in the United States, in seven divisions,
making up nearly half of the U.S. armed forces. Most of the guardsmen
and reservists are air support and telecommunications staff; some
are actual fighter squadrons and pilots.
protection for reservists
Since reservists are at the mercy of their country's need, certain
rights safeguard their full-time professional lives. The Uniformed
Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA)
outlines the protections afforded to reservists called into active
duty. Under USERRA, it is unlawful for an employer to deny initial
employment, reemployment, promotion, or any benefit of employment
to a person who is obligated to perform in a uniformed service.
reservist employed by a civilian employer is activated by order
of the federal government, that person is required to notify the
employer, orally or in writing. Valid orders can come in many forms,
including written or oral orders issued by a military authority,
and therefore employers must accept oral notification that an employee
has been activated. An employer does not have a "right of refusal"
for military leave of absence, except in extreme cases. Also, employees
aren't responsible for finding a replacement, or altering the work
schedule - that's the employer's responsibility.
also forbids an employer from requiring an employee to use his or
her vacation or similar leave during a period of military service.
In some cases, employees may ask to use vacation time and/or personal
days for military duty; in such a case, the time off would be paid
at the regular base pay rate.
protections for some
While a reservist is on active duty, his or her employer is generally
not required to provide compensation. However, some employers elect
voluntarily to pay employees for the difference between military
pay and what the employees would have received if their employment
had not been interrupted by military service. Some companies even
pay full salary up to a certain number of days.
to The Charlotte Observer, many businesses offered up full pay for
90 days, 180 days, or even a full year (and that's on top of military
pay). Wachovia Corporation, located in Raleigh offered reservist
employees full pay for up to 180 days, while Duke Energy in Charlotte
offered a generous year of full pay and benefits. Other companies,
like RJ Reynolds Tobacco, offered to make up the pay difference
for as long as one year.
governments are also helping. The state of Tennessee, for one, provides
compensation for state employees to make up for the difference between
their pay from military service and what they would have received
from their normal salary.
Healthcare protections for all
When activated for duty, uniformed service members receive military
healthcare. In addition, USERRA states that service members and
their families may continue to receive employer-sponsored health
benefits for up to 31 days, and may opt to continue health coverage
for up to 18 months. However, the employee may be required to pay
the entire premium, plus a 2 percent administrative fee.
Employers must reemploy reservists when they return from active
duty, but may fill positions with temporary or contract workers
for the duration of the original employees' service. Employers must
notify temporary workers when reservists are slated to return, and
keep the positions open for the returning employees. Reservists
must return to their jobs within a predetermined period after they
are deactivated, based on how long they were gone.
According to the USERRA, returning service members are "required
to be reemployed in the job that they would have attained had they
not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status,
and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority."
This has been coined the "escalator principle," as the absent employee
moves up in rank and seniority in their job placement even though
the actual person is on active military duty. USERRA also requires
that an employer make concerted efforts to train or retrain returning
veterans in refresh or upgrade their skills.
Reasonable accommodation must be made for returning employees
who have become disabled during their service. If the employer is
unable to make reasonable accommodation within the old job, the
employee may have any other position for which he or she is qualified
or could become qualified. Disabled veterans have two years to return
to their jobs after their service ends.
of Labor - "Employment and reemployment rights of members of the
The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard
Marine Corps Reserve
Naval Reserve Force
Coast Guard Reserve
Army National Guard
Air National Guard
Regina Robo, News Editor- Modified 11-12-2004