Florida Employers Honored for Military Support
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., May 5, 2006 The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve honored eight Florida employers here yesterday for exceptional support of their military employees.
Eight Florida employers sign 5-Star Statements of Support for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. The signing was part of an awards breakfast held to honor the employers with ESGR's Above and Beyond award. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
ESGR, established in 1972, is a Defense Department organization created to provide education, consultation and, if necessary, mediation for employers of National Guard and reserve employees.
"Our Guard and Reserve could not serve without the support of their employers," Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said. "We thank you for that. Your support is absolutely critical."
The employers received ESGR's Above and Beyond Award during a breakfast held in their honor. Those receiving the awards were: Auto Nation, Broward County Sheriff's Office, Florida Power and Light Company, Harris Corp., Lee Memorial Health Systems, Motorola Radio Products Group, Spirit Airlines Inc., and Wackenhut Corp.
The award is one in a series that recognizes employers who have provided programs and policies that are above what is required by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. USERRA provides re-employment protection and other benefits for veterans and employees who perform military service.
That support is two-fold, Hall said. Tangibly, support can come in the form of providing the difference in pay between a civilian job and military pay. It also can include the continuation of health benefits, which helps families as well.
Intangible support simply "shows that employers value their employees," he said.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Allan R. Poulin, vice commander of Air Force Reserve Command, said he understands what it means to have a supportive employer. He spent 25 years as an airline pilot, which required a lot of flexibility from his civilian employer so he could be ready to serve when called.
"I could not be here today, I could not have done my reserve job without the support, the commitment, the flexibility ... of the airline," he said. "I thank you for the sacrifice and commitment you've made to support our reserve folks because we could not do the job without you."
Reserve troops also depend on support from their families, Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Herbst, commander of the Army Reserve Medical Command, said.
"You can't be an Army Reserve soldier without knowing that there's the support back home," he said. "So I might make the suggestion that corporately, you recognize not just your employees, but their families."
Herbst suggested companies send letters of thanks to families of deployed reserve-component troops.
After the presentation of the awards, the honorees signed ESGR 5-Star Statements of Support, reinforcing the reason they were selected for their awards. These statements are public demonstrations that an employer is not only in compliance with USERRA laws, but has gone beyond those requirements.
They also serve as confirmation that the employer promotes training for managers and supervisors to effectively manage reserve-component employees, as well as to advocate for those employees and promote the ESGR mission.
"Today, supportive employers are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation's National Guard and reserve units," Phil Pope, ESGR deputy executive director, said. "I am asking all Florida employers to review and amended their current human resources policies to ensure compliance with (USERRA)."
One honoree, Lee Memorial Health Systems, also is nominated for another ESGR award. The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is the highest recognition for employers for their support of reserve-component employees.
"To be nominated for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award is an honor that few employers in America can claim," David Bludworth, the Florida ESGR state chairman, said.
Up to 15 employers will be recognized with Freedom Awards later this year.