The Magazine of the NJ National Guard
Volume 32 Number 2
v32 n2 contents

Guardlife Index

Keeping Good Comms With Your Employer
Story by Kryn P. Westhoven, NJDMAVA/PA
Hank Pierre, Executive Assistant for the NJESGR briefs a returning Soldier on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA.
Just because there is Federal law that protects your civilian employment while serving in the National Guard, does not mean you shouldn’t keep your employer informed of drills or during a deployment.

Communication is vital and a friendlier way of handling your service in uniform issues, rather than invoking federal statutes to keep the peace in the workplace.

“Employees need to keep in contact with their employers,” said Hank Pierre, Executive Assistant for the New Jersey Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

Pierre, a retired Air Guard Master Sergeant works fulltime at the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs handling the day to day ESGR operations and is assisted by more than 150 volunteers across the state.

USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) came into law in 1994. Instead of making disputes a federal case, there are trained volunteer ESGR Ombudsmen that work to mediate conflicts between management and the worker.

During reconstitution or in-processing, Pierre or an ESGR volunteer talks to each returning Soldier or Airmen about the facts of USERRA and time frame you have to return to your civilian job.

USERRA provides protection to anyone absent from a position of civilian employment because of uniformed service if: advance written or verbal notice was given to the civilian employer; the cumulative length of absence(s) does not exceed 5 years; and the person’s character of service was not adverse.

A service member must report to work or submit an application for reemployment within a specified period based on the duration of service.

Less than 31 days: Return no later than the first full regularly scheduled work period on the first full calendar day.

More than 30 days, but less than 181 days: Apply no later than 14 days.

More than 180 days: Apply no later than 90 days.

It is worth noting that failure to report or make timely application does not automatically result in loss of reemployment rights, but does subject the service member to the rules of conduct, policies and general practices established by the employer, which may result in loss of USERRA protections.

There are certain circumstances under which a civilian employer may not be required to reemploy a service member. However, the employer has the burden of proving reemployment is not possible within those circumstances.

Benefits: Service members are entitled to seniority and all the benefits of seniority with their civilian employer as if continuously employed.

Health Care: Service members may elect to continue the health care coverage provided by their civilian employer for up to eighteen months. If the period of coverage exceeds 30 days, the employer can require the employee to pay 102 percent of the full premium costs.

For periods of 30 days or less, the employer may require the employee to pay only the employee share of the coverage, if any.

Pension Benefit Plans: Employees are to be treated as if no absence in employment occurred and may make up contributions to an employee pension benefit plan. Employers
are also required to fund any obligation attributable to the employer of the employee’s benefit pension plan.

If you have any questions on your rights or want to nominate your employer for the Patriot Award for their support contact Pierre at 609-530-6879. There are webbased resources at the state ESGR site at or the National Committee address


(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs