With thousands of the New Jersey Guard team preparing to mobilize in 2008, keeping their employers educated and aware of the benefits of employing Citizen Soldiers and Airmen falls into the hands of more than 150 volunteers of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) New Jersey field committee.
“Our vision is to promote a culture in which all New Jersey employers support and value the military service of their employees,” said retired Army Col. Carmen A. Venticinque, ESGR New Jersey Field Committee Chairman.
Since 1972 the state committee has worked to support the all-volunteer service members of the seven reserve components and recognize employers that have demonstrated a commitment to the employees they share with the military.
It is the responsibility of the Guard member to communicate in a timely manner about when he or she has drills, annual training and especially about an upcoming deployment. This communication can go a long way to avoid problems later, along with maintaining a positive working relationship between the employer and Guard employees.
The New Jersey ESGR field committee is training additional members to serve as liaisons with military units. “We will place additional emphasis on our Military Outreach Program so as to ensure that we can assist all Guard members in understanding their rights and obligations under USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) while encouraging them to recognize supportive employers,” added Venticinque.
One of the tools available to ESGR to contact and educate employers is the Civilian Employment Information (CEI) data, an initiative through the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness.
“We will send letters and make personal contact with employers of deployed Solders and Airmen,” noted Venticinque.
The civilian employment information will also be used to invite employers on ‘Boss Lifts’ to visit 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) Soldiers training prior to and during their mobilization.
The CEI data is being collected during the pre-mob Soldiers Readiness processing (SRP) for the 50th IBCT or is submitted on an annual basis through the Defense Manpower Data Center web site.
Guard members are encouraged to recognize their employers through the ‘My Boss is a Patriot’ award and all the way up to the state Pro Patria and national Freedom Award. These awards show Guard members appreciation for their employers support and provide the field committee with potential employers that would be eligible for ‘Above and Beyond’ awards or other state awards. These same employers will also be asked to sign a Statements of Support, which says they pledge to recognize, honor and enforce the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA); their managers and supervisors will have the tools they need to effectively manage those employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve; and they will continually recognize and support service members and their families in peace, in crises and in war.
Sometimes despite education efforts, expressions of gratitude along with communication between employer and employee, there are problems that need to be resolved. That is when the field committee ESGR Ombudsmen steps in to try to resolve those issues through informal mediation.
There are currently 19 ESGR volunteers in New jersey, who have received extensive training on USERRA and dispute resolution techniques, who serve as informal mediators between the employer and employee. The Ombudsmen inform and educate the employer and employee on what the law requires and assist in finding a mutually agreeable solution. Those cases that can not be resolved are then referred to the Department of Labor.
It was summed up best by Dr. L. Gordon Sumner, Jr., Executive Director, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (NCESGR), who spoke at the state ESGR training conference in October.
“Without employer support we would not have a reserve component.”
Need more info:
Hank Pierre, Executive Director, NJESGR
Tammy Cartagena, Program Support Specialist, NJESGR
NJ State ESGR Committee - www.njesgr.org/index.html
My Boss is a Patriot - www.njesgr.org/mbiapform.html
National Committee ESGR - www.esgr.mil
Defense Manpower Data Center - https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/Guard-ReservePortal
Dept. of Labor - http://www.dol.gov/compliance/laws/comp-userra.htm.