With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showing no signs of abating, more and more employees in the National Guard and Reserve have to spend time away from the workplace. For employers, managing a work force with more than one service member on staff has become something of a logistical nightmare. And some employers are backing away from previously generous efforts to help service members balance military commitments and work.
One such policy will be tested under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The question: Can an employer unilaterally change a benefit previously given only to soldiers?
Recent case: Ryan Crews is a member of the Illinois Army National Guard and a police officer for the city of Mt. Vernon. Until recently, the city allowed reservists to alter their schedules whenever they had to attend drills on weekends. In effect, reservists scheduled to work police shifts on drill weekends could make up the time by working on their scheduled days off. Then the department canceled the policy, and Crews sued.
The city argued the policy wasn’t a benefit protected by USERRA because it applied only to reservists. But a federal court hearing the case refused to dismiss it and instead ordered the case to go forward. (Crews v. City of Mt. Vernon, No. 06-1012, SD IL, 2007)
Final note: The courts are hearing more and more USERRA cases, and deciding almost all in favor of the men and women in uniform. If you aren’t familiar with USERRA and related U.S. Labor Department regulations, educate yourself. You will find the regulations at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/main.htm.
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