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No. 4


Impact of Mobilization
line Absenteeism & The Bottom Line
line Feingold FMLA Amendment
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Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

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Human Resources and labor relations Sacrifice All Around:
    Impact of Military Reserves Activation on Employers

This article will cover some areas that don't often get much press these days.

The focus will be on the impact on the workplace of reservists and National Guard being called to duty, and how employers and employees are trying to cope with this unusual situation as a result.

Because of this activation the workplace is without some of its key members.

Employees and employers are making a sacrifice of their own in relation to this war. Some employers have been acknowledged recently for their contributions to the war in this regard, and we applaud that.

This article will bring to light some facts and figures that might not get as much attention as they should.

In addition we will note some methods of coping with this situation and some things that employers and employees can do to help make this situation better.

Checkmark Graphic Sacrifices Of Reservists Are Greater Than Ours

The sacrifice and burden on our reserve military forces that have been activated far exceeds anything that we may face as employers and employees who are left behind here at home.

The sacrifice of the families whose loved ones have been activated should be acknowledged as being greater than anything we could possibly have to bear.

The sacrifices of those in the field of military duty may involve possibly even giving their life. Ours are not nearly so profound, but should be acknowledged nonetheless.

We begin this article by thanking those who have been called to duty and are gone from home serving their country. We also want to acknowledge and empathize with those whose loved ones are in harms way.

We will do our part to support those who are away, and wish for their speedy and safe return.

Checkmark Graphic Many Employers Are Doing More Than Necessary

The vast majority of employers are supportive of our troops who have been activated, and are doing everything they are able to as a result. Some are able to do more than others.

Of course there are laws (USERRA, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) to protect the rights of reservists and National Guard personnel, but that is the minimum that an employer must do.

Usually, people who are activated take a big pay cut and lose benefits as a result of being called up to serve their country.

We know of at least 350 employers have gone even further than the minimum the law requires and have covered the difference between their employee's civilian and military pay. Often this difference can be a substantial amount of money.

Some companies, like Wal-Mart, pay the salary differential for up to five years. Sears voluntarily pays the difference in salaries and maintains all benefits, including medical insurance and bonus programs, for up to two years.

Large corporations may be able to better afford that support than smaller businesses.

The support of many smaller businesses through their policies towards their employees who have been activated may not get as much of the lime light, but make just as big an impact when it comes to the individual level.

According to a study by Buck Consultants, 43 percent of employers provide full medical benefits for a limited period, usually six months or a year, while 23 percent provide medical benefits for the duration of the military leave.

Companies that help military reserve and National Guard personnel by concrete acts of support receive some benefits for doing so, including improved recruitment and retention of reservists, and sometimes public recognition for a positive contribution to national defense needs.

There is a cost to the business community to conduct this war, and many employers contribute even more than their share.

Though the sacrifice of employers throughout this country may not be as dramatic as those activated in the field, it can be a substantial one nonetheless.

Most employers are bearing the costs the best they can, and many will do even more than is required.

Checkmark Graphic The Impact On Employers

     - GAO Study Reports That Reservists Often Cost Employers More

Though it is over a year old now, a June 2002 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office reported that reservist employees often cost employers more than non-reservists even if the employer does not provide pay differentials and benefits.

There are a number of areas that can put extra costs on an employer.

These costs can occur when employers pay overtime premiums to their remaining workers, or may occur when it is necessary to hire temporary workers to do the work of the deployed reservists. Pre-deployment training can sometimes cause major disruptions to work schedules. And even the unexpected early return of a reservist can add costs if both the reservist and the substitute must be paid.

Activation of employees can cause an even greater burden for smaller employers.

A small business owner with only one employee who goes off to fight in a foreign country must still take the worker back after completion of service. The resources available to make up the slack and the workplace transitions that are necessary are often harder to come by for a small business than for a larger corporation or company.

Paying for someone who is not there, as well as their replacement or substitute in addition, may be using resources that could be used to survive in hard times - no matter what size the company.

In some areas jobs that were once filled by spouses of those in the military are now open because many have opted to move back to be near their families. Employers are sometimes hard pressed to replace those employees with qualified and dependable people.

Disrupted work schedules and job assignments, as well as the shifting of duties and leadership positions, can be a real strain on employers who may already be stretched to the limit in a suffering economy.

     - First Response Personnel, A Case In Point

A significant number of reserve forces called up for active duty worked as "first-responders" in their civilian jobs.

While employed at home they were protecting the cities and towns across America - as police officers, members of swat teams, firefighters, and other emergency response personnel for example.

A poll of more than 2,100 law enforcement agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 44% of police forces have lost personnel to call-ups.

Approximately 80% of law enforcement agencies in the country have 20 or fewer sworn officers. The loss of one or two can leave significant gaps in their ability to serve their communities.

As more officers and firefighters are called up for active duty for a year or longer, those left behind scramble to find ways to make up for their loss.

Often this means paying overtime that is not budgeted, restricting vacations, shifting personnel and scaling back on crime prevention, inspections and other non-emergency services.

Many of those assigned overseas may be gone for up to two years. As vacations are frozen and overtime imposed, police and fire officials are becoming concerned about burnout of their employees.

"If you're understaffed to begin with, chances are people are already working overtime to fill in for the full-time people they don't have. It's a domino effect," said Gerard Murphy, senior research associate at the Police Research Forum in Washington.

While the private sector can turn to part-time help, experienced police officers and firefighters are not easy to find. A new recruit can take up to a year to train. And law enforcement agencies say they are already suffering from a shortage of sworn officers, some of them drawn to the private sector, where newly created homeland security jobs pay significantly more than most small cities do.

"If you lose an accountant, you can go out and hire an accountant who would be up to speed and working in a couple of weeks. With police officers, you can't just plug somebody in and take up the slack," said Chief Bennett of the Lynchburg, VA police.

Police and fire officials are in overwhelming support of our troops in the field, in spite of the sacrifices they must make within their own ranks. Most feel it is what they can do to help. For their part, they are doing more with less, and protecting our citizens at home.

Both employers and employees, in all workplaces, are often working harder and for more hours under difficult conditions, because of the absence of their fellow workers called up to active duty.

The situation described here with "first response" personnel is a pointed example of how the deployment of our reserves and National Guard can have a multiplying effect all the way down the line - with consequences reaching much farther than first meets the eye.
(This "First Response" section information is based on a Los Angeles Times article from February, 2003)

     - How Businesses Are Coping

One business, Sempra Energy has demonstrated a common way of coping with the shortages and stresses that are a result of the drain on personnel caused by the recent war.

"The work that was done by employees who have been activated is covered by coworkers, consistent with the manner in which coworkers would step in for a colleague who is on vacation," says Randall Peterson, vice president for human resources. Coworkers and temporary upgrades of other workers handle the work for extended periods.

The difference between covering a vacation and the situation now, is that the "vacation" may last for up to two years.

A survey conducted in April of this year by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 82 percent of business organizations cope with the loss of an employee to military duty by assigning the work to others.

Almost half of the survey's 320 respondents have hired outside temporary replacements to fill in. 43 percent of them authorize overtime, while only 16 percent hire additional employees.

11 percent allow "some" work to go undone.

Basically, employers are trying to do more with less.

Employees are also paying a high price due to added stress, more hours, more responsibility, and greater demands being placed on them.

Though it might not make the headlines or be overly dramatic, many employees and employers are contributing to the war effort through their sacrifices at the job site every day.

     - Special Cases

Of course there are a wide variety of special cases relating to employers and employees who have been activated from the reserves or National Guard.

Here are two.

An employer has an employee who is in the reserves and has a seasonal workload that peaks each year at the same time.

This employee is the only one who does this work for the employer, and has his or her own classification. Because of the added demands of the workload during the peek period this employee is compensated at a higher pay grade.

The problem begins when each year as the peek period comes around, this employee volunteers for active duty and is assigned for the period of time that the peek period exists.

Each year the employer must assign and train some other employee to do the work on an "out of class" basis - so the premium paid to the reservist is paid even though the employee is never there to do the work that they are supposed to do.

In frustration the employer reassigns this employee.

Not a good idea.


Later a general shows up and cites the USERRA laws, and advises the employer that it is just too bad that the employer has this problem. Under the law the employee cannot be penalized for doing reserve duty even if it occurs at an incontinent time for the employer and if the employee volunteers to go active at that particular time.

This situation demonstrates a warning to employers: be sure to keep reserve obligations in mind when making job assignments and also recognize the need to have back up in place for those employees that many be required or who volunteer for active duty.

Another case involves a different type of situation.

In this case an Air Force reservist is activated and sent to Iraq.

A month later he finds out he will probably lose his civilian job as a commercial airline co-pilot because the airline he works for is slashing its workforce to avoid bankruptcy.

While working as a civilian employee this person's job is legally protected - except during corporate reorganizations.

Military reservists are protected by law from being fired or demoted because an employer resents their absence. However, USERRA provides that firings that are part of a planned reduction in force are allowed.

Some workforce experts have said that reservists often tend to be junior employees in need of a second job, and their lack of seniority makes them more vulnerable to layoffs.

So, as you can see from these two examples, the situation is not always clear-cut for an employer or an employee. It pays to know exactly how you are affected.

If you have any questions about how USERRA may affect you as an employer, Click Here to contact Bob Braun for more information.

Checkmark Graphic What Employers Can Do

If your workplace is impacted because someone in your workplace is being deployed, here is how you can help:

  • If the person has not yet been deployed, you might brainstorm possible solutions about how to manage the work before the person leaves. There may be procedures and information that this person has that will help in coordinating a work plan. Have a discussion before the person is deployed. Work together to coordinate a plan.

  • See if there are employees who might offer to do portions of the person's job when the time comes. If there are things that an employee who volunteers can do without compromising their own work, permit them to volunteer and help out.

  • An employee who has worked closely with the person being deployed may have some ideas to make the transition easier. A meeting with the supervisor and co-workers may help with some good ideas. Often the best solutions come from those actually doing the work.

Checkmark Graphic Some Current Numbers

The Pentagon said 204,100 members of the reserves or National Guard are on active duty as of July 9th, 2003.

According to the Department of Defense, about 20,000 of those 204,000 are federal employees.

More than 300,000 National Guard and Reserve personnel have been called to active duty since September 2001.

The 1.2 million Guard and Reserve personnel now make up nearly half of all US military forces, compared with 1.4 million men and women on active duty.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently said that at the beginning of November, 2003 - 43,000 Reserve and National Guard troops and nearly 70,000 regular Marine and Army soldiers were being notified for duty in an Iraq rotation plan that would reduce U.S. forces there to 105,000 by mid-2004, from the 132,000 who are there now.

Checkmark Graphic Update: More Complaints Filed Against Employers

According to a recent article by the Washington Post (10th of November), more Reserve and National Guard personnel returning from active duty are filing complaints accusing their employers of discrimination.

In the budgetary year that ended September 30, the Department of Labor received 1,300 discrimination complaints, up from 900 in 2001, according to government officials. The department has referred 79 of the cases to the Department of Justice.

DOL figures state that 20 percent of the complaints filed involve returning military personnel who said their employers denied them reinstatement. One-third of the complaints involved reserve and guard personnel who said they were passed over for promotions as a result of their service, according to the Washington Post article.

The more employees that are rotated out of service, the more discrimination cases we are likely to see. To help you avoid any conflicts or situations that may be unclear regarding returning reservists or National Guard personnel coming back from active duty, just click here to contact Braun Consulting Group.

Checkmark Graphic More Info On USERRA

At Braun Consulting Group we have been covering this situation for quite some time. We published a lengthy article in our Summer Newsletter in 2002 titled "National Guard and Reserve Leave".

The article covers USERRA facts, Employee's Responsibilities and Requirements, Employer's Responsibilities and Requirements, Facts about Time Off and Time off Work, Benefits and Pay Issues, and Resource for Employers.

To read the article just click here

Also, here are a few more links on this subject that might be useful:

Reserve Officers Association 'Law Review Archive'

National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS)

Absenteeism And The Bottom Line Next Page

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