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Organization Briefs Guard, Reserve on Re-Employment Rights

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 16, 2003 – Bobby Hollingsworth calls it "closing the loop."

The executive director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, commonly referred to as ESGR, is referring to how that organization is taking its message to members of the National Guard and other reservists serving in Kuwait and Iraq.

Hollingsworth is a retired Marine Corps Reserve two-star general, and he knows a thing or two about communicating with military people, who are dealing with the stresses of life in a combat zone and concerns about what is going on back at home.

The ESGR message has to do with their civilian re- employment rights when they return to this country.

ESGR representatives are explaining those rights, as stated in the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, to Guard and Reserve troops who are headed home.

"We want these people to know what their rights are, and how we can help them. We believe the best place to tell them is in Kuwait, and even Iraq, while they are preparing to return to their homes," said Air National Guard Master Sgt. Bob Krenke, an ESGR National Committee spokesman.

"It is a good way to get to the people when they are most concerned about re-employment issues," Krenke added. "There are a lot fewer distractions over there than there are when they get to this country, when they are a lot more interested in being with their families than they are in sitting through a bunch of briefings."

ESGR, which was established in 1972, first went forward to places like Camp Arifjan near Kuwait City last July. Two dozen representatives have explained re-employment rights to troops at four camps since then, Krenke said.

"This program started as an experiment, and the experiment worked," added Krenke, who helped train the initial representatives. "Our ESGR people over there know they're doing something important."

The representatives are telling the reserve component troops about their basic re-employment rights when they return to their civilian lives. They are also telling the reservists that the employment and re-employment rights act applies to all employers, regardless of the size of their business, and that it protects most part-time and probationary positions.

These are some of the law's key provisions for returning service members, according to the National Guard Almanac:

  • They are entitled to prompt re-employment.

  • They are entitled to seniority and seniority- related benefits, including pensions, status and rate of pay, as if they were continuously employed during their military absence.

  • They are entitled to immediate reinstatement of health insurance for themselves and previously covered dependents.

  • They are entitled to training or retraining by their employer if necessary to qualify them for re- employment.

  • If they are disabled while on military duty, or if a disability is aggravated by military service, employers must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability.

  • If their period of service was for 181 days or more, they are protected from discharge, except for cause, for one year.

  • If their service was for 31-181 days, the period of protection from discharge is 180 days.
The law sets a five-year cumulative limit on the amount of military service Guard and reserve members can perform and retain re-employment rights with a given employer. A new employer means a new five-year limit.

There are exceptions for people who cannot be released within five years or whose initial training lasts longer than that time.

The act limits service members to specific periods of time for returning to their civilian jobs depending on the duration of their service:

  • Up to 30 days: Report back to work for the next regularly scheduled shift the day after release from the military, to include safe travel home and eight hours of rest.

  • 31-180 days: Apply for reemployment within 14 days after release.

  • 181 days or more: Apply for reemployment with 90 days after release.

  • If hospitalized or convalescing from an injury or illness, the limit may be extended for up to an additional two years.
(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)
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