Reemployment Conflicts Between Veterans and Businesses

September 15, 2011 |

Veterans losing their jobs

It’s tough to leave any job and start over, but what about leaving your job for war and finding yourself shut out of your old job when you return? That’s the conundrum that more veterans are facing these days. In a recent article by the National Law Journal, a recent case involving Stephen Fryer, a Massachusetts National Guard member and an Iraq war veteran, serves as a reminder — and a warning — of what can happen when servicemembers’ employment rights aren’t respected.

Fryer was hired by A.S.A.P. Fire and Safety Corp. as a sprinkler service/sales representative in March 2006, but after a 13-month deployment in Iraq, the company re-hired him as a sprinkler “helper” in June 2008. Fryer claimed he was unable to earn commissions in his new role because he had no access to customers, and also claimed the company would not pay the renewal fee when his personal licenses expired in July 2008, which meant he could not perform unsupervised work. Fryer was eventually fired in October 2008, and his case concluded with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit penalizing A.S.A.P. for violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) to the cool tune of $800,000.

 We can expect more cases like this to arise, according to Corporate Counsel. The Department of Labor reports that the  Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) handled 1,282 complaints involving job reinstatement and reemployment problems. The Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) also reports that of the total number of cases handled by VETS in 2010, allegations related to job reinstatement accounted for 28.3 percent of the total caseload, the second highest tally out of all cases for the year.

 The bottom line? Be sure to know your USERRA rights so you can keep your employers honest when you return from service. Former VETS director John McKinny also recommends these two tips:

- Notify your employer that you are leaving for service.

- Apply for reinstatement within the designated length of time. For example, if you are a Reservist who spent 181 days or more on assignment, you have 90 days to apply for reemployment.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at Military.com. His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.

Comments

  1. Jacob says:

    The Court system is still too soft on companies and corporations who violate veteran rights when it comes to being activated for war. It is my personal and professional opinion, as a US Marine, and a DoD civil service employee, that the court system should aggressively pursue criminal charges against such corporations, the personnel operating these business, for violating what is CLEARLY the law against veterans. Not simply misdemeanor charges and punishments, but felonies with a required prison time. If you disgrace a veteran for their service by denying them employment, you should be seen in the same light as someone who has committed treason. This nation exists not because of successful businesses and windfall corporate profits, but by the blood and sacrifice of those who have stood to defend it at all costs.

    • Robert says:

      Hell yeah!

    • Bob says:

      Jacob as an ex soldier of 7 yrs and a Desesrt Shield/Storm Vet. i couldnt agree more ……………..haha anyone hiring in Lou. Ky. i need a job lol

    • chuck says:

      Well now look at me a Vet also, DAV also, and schooled by the state of MA. addition to chtr 31. I've been un empld 2.5 yrs put thru school and working 2 months and I'm being let go, push out of a part time job for a guards man!!!! I was active duty Marine. SO F……u

  2. Darrel_P244 says:

    The employer feels like as long as they have a job for you when you return, they've done their part. But the part about your previous role, status and seniority is often ignored. I faced this with a mojor American-owned oil company after a deployment to Iraq. I won't say which one because the case is still pending ("America's largest independent refiner "…gotta love google).
    But don't be afraid to go after them if your rights are violated at all. Regardless of how big or powerful they may think they are, there are scores of attorneys out there that handle military cases. And alot of them are former military themselves, so they know the rules far better than the civilians (and they charge less).
    Remember, they are free to make millions or billions in this country because people like us leave our families and fight for their right to do so without the fear of some terrorist blowing them up or some dictator taking all their profits. The least they can do is put you back to work and not try to make you feel like you screwed them to do it.

    • That's one of the most infuriating things about this particular case — the totally misguided belief that they could "hire him back," but in a much different capacity and level than where he was before. It's insulting.

  3. N. Hershberger (SGT) says:

    We, as Veterans, must also KNOW that if you come back from deployment and the entire company is laid-off.. there is nothing we can do but find another job. Sad, truly. I am in this situation. Yes I am receiving unemployment due to coming back off of active orders (Afghanistan), but forced to find another position elsewhere.

  4. Mary Beth says:

    Thank goodness for the ESGR (Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve). An amazing organization that helps employers understand USERRA rights, and recognizes those companies that do go above and beyond in supporting our citizen soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors. There are a lot of good companies out there that do an amazing job taking care of their deployed employees. Keep up the good work!!!

  5. Calvin Moore says:

    Where can veterans really get the help (attorney) when they go through the USERRA process, but their case not accepted by DOJ. Lawyers are very expensive and firms, corporations have an edge.

  6. jemc50 says:

    This has been going on for years. After the First Gulf War, I saw how some businesses ignored the returning reservists, or tried too. At least in the cases I am aware of, all it took was a call to the Bureau of Labor and they provided some "education" to the business owner about how the rules work.

  7. Jim McElfish says:

    There is a problem here, and it is on both sides. The returning serviceman wants to get his old job back and the company has had to fill that job in the interim. More and more, military forces are relying on reservists to go back on active duty, in fact, making it difficult to move up in rank if the reservist does not go active several times in his or her career. The One Navy concept, for example, does not take into consideration the burden placed on both the reservist and the company that employs them. Having been a reservist and now retired from service, I know what I am speaking about, and my active was only for two to three weeks. These men and women are gone for a year or more.

    • Joseph Mill says:

      The burden on the company is irrelevant. They MUST by law and by any normal standards of behavior rehire the returning veteran with any seniority and promotions intact as if they had not deployed. There are many companies that can do this; the companies that do not deserve no sympathy or legal recourse.

  8. RaysZ28_2009 says:

    Clearly there must be some More education to the businesses, and then they need to be informed (before the person deploys), that they need to be on board with this Law. I agree with the first post that more strigent enforcement and speedy punsihment needs to be put into place. As to how severe taht remains open, but Companies are being greedy these days, and that to me is un-Patriotic. if they treat the returning service memeber that way at all.

  9. Geoff says:

    This is a sad case of affairs, this proves that America is falling in to a deeper moral crisis. People who are trying to do good, do the right thing, people who want to work and raise their families right are being punished. I have a friend who has 7 kids, works part-time ( because he has to in order to collect welfare) and he gets food stamps, treated like a king when he walks into the welfare office, then you have good folks who WANT to work getting the shaft.
    If this is what this country is coming to well to He– with this country.