The daily news feeds and networks’ top stories over the last months have necessarily focused on the tragic events in the Ukraine. By the end of February, about 12,000 United States military members had been deployed to Germany, Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states to provide security assistance to the Ukraine. Although numbers are unknown, other forces have been placed on alert for potential deployment in the relatively near future.
If the situation does not de-escalate soon, we may see our reservist employees called to active duty. If this happens at your place of employment, keep in mind that employers are subject to the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), the federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed service members and their civilian employers.
Receiving a notification from an employee who has been called to active military duty can create uncertainty for both the employer and the employee. Employees obviously are concerned with leaving family and friends, and some are also concerned about their employment status changing during the absence. Employers are concerned about how the work will get done, how long the leave will last, and how to fill the gap during the leave. Some employers may also be unclear of the specific requirements under USERRA.
Many employers are not aware of a program, sponsored by the Department of Defense, called the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). This program was established to promote cooperation and understanding between reserve component service members and their civilian employers and also assists in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee's military commitment.
According to their website, ESGR is supported by a network of more than 3,000 volunteers in 54 committees located across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam-CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Volunteers, hailing from small business and industry, government, education, and prior military service, bring a vast wealth of experience to assist in serving employers, service members, and their families.
During the course of my career, I’ve contacted state representatives of ESGR with questions ranging from clarifying my rights as an employer to discharge documentation. Their representatives have always been responsive and helpful. Consider adding them to your personal HR resource library.
I’m certain we all fervently hope that our reservists will not be called to active duty, but if they are, I’m also certain they will willingly meet their commitments with professionalism and courage. They and their families deserve our support.
MRA also provides resources to assist with employer questions, or you may find additional information by contacting ESGR directly.