Agencies required to protect reservists' jobs

Agencies required to protect reservists' jobs

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 has been amended to protect the rights of reservists returning from active duty to government jobs.

Although few Guard and Reserve members have expressed a concern, DoD's increased reliance on the reserve components spurred the Office of Personnel Management to issue regulations concerning the act's application to federal civilians. The protections also apply for reservists employed by state and local governments and by private employers.

There are few incidences where a reservist would not be entitled to return to a position of employment, according to Air Force Col. Rowan Bronson, assistant director of personnel in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Those incidences would include people who fail to give advance notice to employers that they've been called to active duty, those who exceed five years' cumulative active duty time or who failed to report back in time, and those who are discharged under less than honorable conditions.

"Basically, if they don't fall into those categories, they should have no problem getting back within federal civil service," Bronson said.

About 5 percent of the Ready Reserve-73,000 people-hold federal civilian jobs, Bronson said. They may volunteer or be called up individually or with a unit, but still receive the same protections, he said. Another agency, the National Committee for Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, protects their rights, too, as well as the rights and concerns of employers. The committee uses ombudsmen in the field (at least one in every state) who act as mediators between reserve component members and their employers and who explain to them the roles and responsibilities of each.

Employers concerned about a reserve component member being gone too long or too often also can directly communicate with unit commanders, the colonel said.

Before going on active duty, reserve component employees should notify their civilian employers, preferably in writing, Bronson said, except when to do so would hamper military security or delay the employee from reporting to duty. While reservists are away from their normal jobs, their entitlements continue as if they were there, he said.

"Benefits that are provided to all employees should continue to be provided to absent reservists," he said. "If the reservists are in positions that would automatically be upgraded during their absence, they should receive the upgrades. Pension and health benefits attached to the position as a normal course of the way the employers do business should stay in place."

Administration of the new rules will be applied uniformly across federal departments, although there could be some nuances depending on the reservists' branch of service and the department's human resources policies.

Reservists can find out exactly what's required of them through their units and employers and by accessing the Department of Labor "tickler file" that contains questions and answers for both reservists and employers. The file is on the Web at www.dol.gov/elaws/userra0.htm.

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