Contributed by Alan Rohlfing
Those of us in the employment assistance ‘space’ tend to be fairly adept at identifying and passing along resources that can prove valuable to those looking for work. Everyone hunting for that next job has their own perspective on the search, and our traditional members of the Reserve Component – those National Guardsmen and Reservists all around the country – sometimes have a unique challenge with regard to employers, both in finding a job and in keeping that job upon returning from deployment.
I always encounter friends that are surprised to learn that there’s a government agency and a law on the books to help deal with those challenges that come up. That agency is Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR, for short), and I’ve always thought that this agency serves as a combat multiplier for that segment of our Armed Forces, which hail from every branch of Service
ESGR is a Department of Defense (DoD) program that develops and maintains employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of the law (more on that law in a minute), and resolving conflicts through mediation. ESGR promotes cooperation and understanding between Reserve Component Service members and their civilian employers and assists in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.
Established in 1972, ESGR is guided by DoD Directive 1250.1. Together with a DC-area headquarters staff and a small cadre of support staff in each State, ESGR is supported by a network of more than 3,680 volunteers in 54 committees located across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam-CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Volunteers, hailing from small business and industry, government, education, and prior military service bring a vast wealth of experience to assist in serving employers, Service members, and their families.
Volunteers connect with employers and members of the Guard and Reserve daily throughout their respective states and territories. Most states are divided up into areas, and each area has a ‘team’ of volunteers focused on making a difference by:
1) Developing relationships with employers to promote advocacy for service in the Guard and Reserve – presenting awards, coordinating ‘Bosslifts’, and working with military and civilian media organizations to promote public understanding of the ESGR mission;
2) Informing and educating members of the Guard and Reserve regarding their employment rights and responsibilities under USERRA (the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994); and
3) Working as Ombudsmen with employers and Service members to prevent, reduce, or resolve misunderstandings regarding employment rights and responsibilities.
As an organization, ESGR is always looking for volunteers to help accomplish their mission; if you’re interested, you might want to consider volunteering your time & talent. Your involvement, in whatever capacity you choose, can improve the relationships our brave men and women have with their employers while they put their civilian careers on hold to serve. For more information and to sign up as a volunteer, visit them on the web at www.esgr.mil.
That law that I mentioned earlier is USERRA, a Federal statute that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA is intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserve, National Guard, or other uniformed Services: (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.
Basically, USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed Services, to include certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. USERRA is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so the United States can enjoy the protection of those Services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals. For additional information on compliance assistance and other USERRA resources, visit the US Department of Labor online.
ESGR recognizes the unique skills a Guard or Reserve Service member can bring to a civilian employer. Not only do representatives of the organization host and attend job fairs in an effort to link citizen warriors with employers, but ESGR “works with its sister program, the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, and partners at the national, state, and local levels to address the unemployment of Guard and Reserve members, Veterans, and their families. A key component of that effort is ESGR’s strategic alliance with the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and their American Job Center network”.
Throughout the states and territories, there are over 2,000 American Job Centers providing local assistance to job seekers and employers. The centers offer Guardsmen, Reservists, and Veterans access to career and financial counseling, résumé and interviewing assistance, education and retraining, job search methods, registered apprenticeships, and a vast employer network. They have resources for employers, too, such as labor market counseling, interview and job seeker selection tips, and more.
If you’re unemployed or underemployed and are plugged in to resources that exist to help you find your next employer, there’s no doubt that you’ll connect with both for profit companies that charge a fee for their services and non-profit organizations that perform monumental tasks for little or no cost. But for those of you still wearing the uniform on a part-time basis, don’t forget about those governmental agencies like ESGR that do great things, too – they can really be a help when you have certain concerns with your co-career.