Fired Postal Worker Featured in Push to Expand Reservist Job Rights

The plight of two reservists who appear to have lost their civilian jobs as a result of military service will be featured at a Thursday press conference to rally support for a bill that would increase penalties for employers who violate federal employment and re-employments rights laws for military personnel.

One of the men, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Eric Grenesko, was laid off from a job as a service manager for a Pittsburgh company while he was away on military training. The second man, Richard Erickson of Fort Myers, Fla., was fired from the U.S. Postal Service for what his termination letter says was excessive use of military leave.

In Grenesko’s case, his termination notice made no clear link made to his military service, although he suspects that was the case. He received the layoff notice while away at a military training course for noncommissioned officers.

Erikson’s military service clearly was an issue. A National Guard Special Forces sergeant major who already had served one tour in Afghanistan, Erikson was terminated because postal officials calculated he had missed more than five years of work since 1991 because of his military service and was about to be mobilized for another 18 months.

Both men would be helped by the Reservists Access to Justice Act, sponsored by Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., which would strengthen the rights of service members to seek legal remedies if they believe their employment and re-employment rights were violated.

Those rights to hold onto a job are granted by the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, known as USERRA, which has a major loophole because some private-sector and government employers require workers to seek arbitration instead of suing over employment issues.

Under Davis’ bill, HR 3993, mandatory arbitration would not apply to USERRA cases and employers could face up to $20,000 in damages if they are found by a court to have violated a service member’s rights.

The bill, which Davis hopes to get passed through the House of Representatives this year, faces some jurisdictional issues. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has ultimate jurisdiction over USERRA, but the House Judiciary Committee on which Davis serves is responsible for some of the legal issues.

House leaders hope to work out an agreement for quick passage, Davis aides said.

source: Army Times