Veterans Get Ousted from their Jobs
Major Government Survey Shows Veterans Losing Their Jobs at Home Upon Return from War
by Hobart R. Rivers
Horribly strained by extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, growing numbers of reservists in the U.S. Military say the U.S. Government is providing little help to enlisted soldiers who are denied their old jobs when they return home.
This situation and data comes directly from Defense Department data. The Pentagon survey of military reservists in 2005-2006 shows increasing discontent among returning military soldierss in securing their legal rights after taking leave from work to defend and fight for the U.S.A.
The study found that 44 percent of the military reservists polled said they were dissatisfied with how the Labor Department handled their complaint of employment discrimination based on their military status. This is up 27 % from 2004.
Nearly one-third, or about 29 percent, said they had difficulty getting the information they needed from government agencies charged with protecting their rights. In addition, 77 % reported they did not even bother trying to get assistance because they did not believe it would make any difference.
When contacted about this survey and situation, Lynn Earle, Recruiting Consultant from HireVeterans.com, a leading job board for U.S. Veterans said, “This is just terrible. Bombs and bullets don’t discriminate. Yet military reservists are facing job discrimination right here in the good ole U.S.A. They serve for our freedom and this is how we reward them? I am disgusted. So much so, I am working everyday now to do right against such a wrong.”
Many experts in the legal field say the findings might represent just a tiny bit of the real reality. In fact, formal complaints directed to the Labor Department by reservists hit nearly 1,600 in 2005. That is the highest number since 1991. And that does not account for the thousands of more cases reported each year to the Pentagon for resolution by mediation.
And a rise in complaints is likely once the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down and more people come home. Time is the enemy. After years without those employees who went to serve, employers will be forced to restructure or hire new workers to cope with those on military leave
Here’s some of the findings of the survey;
- About 23 percent of reservists reported they did not return to their old jobs in part because their employer did not give them prompt re-employment or their job situation changed in some way while they were on military leave.
- Twenty-nine percent of those choosing not to seek help to get their job back said it was because it was “not worth the fight.” Another 23 percent said they were unsure of how to file a complaint. Others cited a lack of confidence that they could win (14 percent); fear of employer reprisal (13 percent), or other reasons (21 percent).
- Reservists reported receiving an average of 1.8 briefings about their job rights and what government resources were available. This is down slightly from the 2.0 briefings they reported getting in 2004.
“Most of the government investigators are too willing to accept the employer’s explanation for a worker’s dismissal,” Sam Wright, a former Labor Department attorney who helped write the 1994 discrimination law protecting reservists says. “Some of it is indifference, some of them don’t understand the laws involved. But the investigators establish for themselves this impossibly hard standard to win a case. As a result, reservists lose out.”
Under the law, military personnel are protected from job discrimination based on their service and are generally entitled to a five-year cumulative leave with rights to their old jobs upon their return. Reservists typically file a complaint first with a Pentagon office, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), which seeks to resolve the dispute informally.
If that effort fails, a U.S. Veteran typically can go to the Labor Department to pursue a formal complaint and possible litigation by the Justice Department.
A report by the American Bar Association as early as 2004 noted problems in which the government was “not seen as an aggressive advocate for the returning veteran.” A presidential task force chaired by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson earlier this year found that agencies could do a better job of educating troops and veterans. The report did not address government enforcement of the law.
Just ask Ret. Marine Lt. Col. Steve Duarte, who won a court judgment of more than $430,000 from Agilent Technologies Inc. in March 2005 after turning to a private lawyer after losing his job. Duarte was a senior consultant when he was mobilized twice from October 2001 to April 2002 and from November
2002 to July 2003.
When Duarte returned from the second mobilization, Agilent did not reinstate his previous position but assigned him to a special project. He soon received a poor job evaluation that differed from previous positive reviews and was terminated four months later.
Duarte said he contacted the Pentagon and Labor Department, both of which turned him away. Labor Department lawyers allegedly said he didn’t have a case unless he specifically heard his employer say they were terminating him for military reasons.
“I am not a lawyer, but I expected various government agencies like ESGR and the Department of Labor to help me,” Duarte said in documents provided to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, which is reviewing the Labor Department’s practices.
“I felt as though they were on the side of the large corporations,” he said.
Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said “We carefully consider information our members provide, and we actively work to develop solutions where needed.” The Labor Department has said it has been working to better educate troops and veterans about their rights.
Senator Edward Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, said he was troubled by the findings. He said he plans legislation to hold agencies accountable by requiring them to collect and release employment data.
The Labor Department currently releases an annual report on employment complaints to Congress, but the figures do not include Pentagon data. The report, which is due to Congress on Feb. 1, has yet to be released this year.
About the Author, Hobart R. Rivers, is a independant journalist who writes about veterans issues