DoL Reminds Employers of Soldier-Rehire Law after Complaints Rise

November 11, 2003 ( - US Department of Labor (DoL) Secretary Elaine Chao has released a new public service announcement reminding employers that they have to reinstate mobilized reservists and National Guard members called to active duty.

Chao’s reminder was in response to a flood of complaints from about 1,300 National Guardsmen and reservists that they ran into roadblocks getting their old job back after getting home, the Washington Post reported. “They did their job — now let’s do ours,” Chao says in the announcement (See ). The complaint total for the fiscal year ending September 30 represented a whopping 44% increase over 2001’s total of 900. The Post said it couldn’t be learned how many of the latest complaints came from military personnel returning from Iraq.

In about one-third of the cases filed in the past year, reserve and guard personnel said they missed out on jobs and promotions as a result of their mobilization, and about 20% said they weren’t reinstated in their jobs. The rest of the cases involved vacation, seniority and pension issues, DoL officials said.

The department referred 79 of the cases to the Department of Justice for possible civil prosecution. A Justice Department spokesman said the department couldn’t determine whether any lawsuits have resulted from the recent complaints. The US attorney in Denver has filed two lawsuits on behalf of National Guard and reserve forces in the past six months, the Post said.

For the most part, employers across the country have been generous in dealing with their National Guard and reserve employees, officials said. Hundreds of firms have begun making up the pay difference between their military and civilian pay, according to Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, and many offer health benefits as well.

Under a 1994 law, The Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), it is illegal to discriminate against military personnel mobilized for duty. Returning personnel are supposed to be allowed to return to their same, or a comparable job, complete with any pay raises or promotions they might have otherwise received if they had remained at work.