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Group explains re-employment rights

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- Bobby Hollingsworth calls it “closing the loop.”

He is the executive director of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, commonly referred to as ESGR.

He is referring to how that organization is taking its message to members of the National Guard and other reservists, who are serving in Kuwait and Iraq.

Hollingsworth is a retired Marine Corps Reserve major general, and 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 at home.

The message has to do with their civilian re-employment rights when they return to the United States.

Representatives are explaining the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

“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, a national committee spokesman.

“It is a good way to get to the people when they are most concerned about re-employment issues,” Krenke said. “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 to places like Camp Arifjan near Kuwait City in July.

Two dozen representatives have explained re-employment rights to servicemembers at four camps since then, Krenke said.

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

The representatives are telling the reservists that the employment and re-employment rights act applies to all employers, regardless of the size of their business. They also said it protects most part-time and probationary positions.

These are some of the law’s key provisions for returning servicemembers, 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 family members.

-- 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 to 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.

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