Yesterday, I had the super-cool pleasure of joining the South Central Minnesota SHRM chapter on a Bosslift as a part of Operation Employment. What does that mean you might ask? It means I got to ride in a Chinook to Camp Ripley to learn about how employers can better support our National Guard and Reserve troops. As you can tell, I really liked the Chinook ride.
I also liked hearing from Lieutenant Colonel Rankin of the Second Battalion 135th Infantry Regiment, the Red Bulls, as he expressed his gratitude for what employers do to support his soldiers. He explained his role in making sure soldiers know when they are likely to be deployed, when training will occur, just how many great skills his soldiers possess, and what employers can expect – all fascinating information coming from a man with a day job as a school superintendent.
Employers have obligations to not discriminate against National Guard and Reserve troops under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). It is unlawful to discriminate (i.e. not hire or fire) based upon an employee’s qualified service and retaliate when they need to take time off for their service. Instead, employers are obligated to support leave and return employees to equivalent positions when they return from training and/or active duty.
Being activated is an incredibly stressful for soldiers and their families. They may be away from their loved ones for weeks or months, causing disruption in child care, finances, general family life as soldiers may miss birthdays, holidays, and being there for the day-to-day celebrations and hardships of life. Worrying about whether they will still have a job adds to what already might feel like crippling worry. This is where we as HR professionals can help ease worry by explaining what we’ll do while they are deployed and what they can expect when they return.
A resource we can turn to is the ESGR. As a part of the Department of Defense, ESGR’s mission is to support both employees and employers through deployments and re-entry into the civilian workforce. ESGR has a resource guide for employers that can be helpful as employers consider a guard member or a reservist for a position or already employ one who is getting ready to deploy. I highly recommend HR pros bookmark it.
Our armed forced protect our freedom. Part of our duty is to make as easy as possible to be an employee and a soldier by supporting their service and their families.