The MOU provides a mechanism to assist the estimated 6,000 Reserve and National Guard members who are employed by foreign employers abroad. These individuals are not covered by reemployment protections provided by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, when they are called to active military duty.
"This MOU is very important and supports our overseas-employed reservists in two ways," said Cohen. "It establishes a protocol for them to seek help when reemployment problems occur as a result of their military service, and it brings the full influence of the U.S. government to the table in working with foreign employers and host nations to resolve problems."
The issue arose when a number of Army and Naval reservists, who live in Germany and other European countries, were activated in support of the Bosnia peace enforcement operation. Some were faced with reemployment problems when they attempted to return to work with their overseas employers.
In the Fiscal Year 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 104-201), Congress asked the Secretary of Defense to submit a report recommending actions to alleviate reservists' foreign employment problems. The report was coordinated through the Departments of Defense, State, Labor, as well as the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Attach Office. It called for the establishment of an MOU among the three executive departments, which the cabinet secretaries readily signed.
In a related event, the President signed into law the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 1998 on Nov. 11, which extended USERRA coverage to reservists working for U.S. companies abroad. Before this change, there was nothing to compel U.S. employers of Reserve members working outside of the United States to obey the provisions of USERRA.
"Both Congress and the executive branch are working hard to protect the people who are protecting us, our men and women in uniform," said Cohen. "This MOU was a collaborative effort and I extend a special thanks to Secretaries Albright and Herman for sharing in this commitment."
For more information, a copy of the report or memorandum, please call Lt. Col. Terry Jones, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at (703) 695-3620.