Sunday, September 09, 2007

All the Protection that the Law Allows

In 1994 the Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); it was updated in 1996 and 1998. The purpose of the act is:
Ҥ 4301. Purposes; sense of Congress
(a) The purposes of this chapter are--
(1) to encourage noncareer service in the uniformed services by eliminating or minimizing the disadvantages to civilian careers and employment which can result from such service;
(2) to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing service in the uniformed services as well as to their employers, their fellow employees, and their communities, by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service; and
(3) to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services.“
In 2003 Congress passed the “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act” (SSCRA), a restatement and updating of the old Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act”. The intent of Congress is stated in Section 2:
‘‘(1) to provide for, strengthen, and expedite the national defense through protection extended by this Act to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation; and
‘‘(2) to provide for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect the civil rights of servicemembers during their military service.”
Good, brief explanations of the details are available for USERRA and SSCRA. In the broadest sense:
· USERRA protects your employment and protects you from discrimination because you are in the service – any component
· SSCRA makes it possible for you to serve without ;losing leases, eases the burden of installment contacts, and can even, in some cases, give relief from judicial proceedings.
So why aren’t these laws working for many veterans (see related stories later in this issue)?

A law does not work if it cannot work on a human scale. Years of waiting for resolution doesn’t help if you need a paycheck this Friday.
Statistics are not people. The government touting reduced response time (whether true or false) by 10% doesn’t help the veteran who is at the wrong end of the distribution. People are not “means and medians”.
No matter how much a free-marketer you are, business concerns must not trump human concerns, and the law should apply equally to all.

Finally – the veteran does deserve special treatment. By virtue of his or her honorable service, his or her needs are more important than the needs of those who stayed home and sacrificed nothing.
Unfortunately, neither the Department of Labor nor the Department of Justice see it that way. They give more credence to an employer’s unsupported claim of irreparable harm to his business than they do to the veteran’s legitimate claim under the law.
Back from Iraq? Want your job back? The USERRA protects you, doesn’t it?

Wait just one minute, buster! That law apparently only applies to you if your former employer says that it does.

Don’t worry. We have set up appropriate alternatives. You lost your job as a $25/hour tradesman because your former employer didn’t want to give it back? We have a job for you providing in-home care of the elderly at $9/hour. Or another as a management trainee at McDonalds.

Don’t like that? Then appeal to the Department of Labor. Oh, wait a minute. Sorry. Your former employer sent in a fax saying that rehiring you would destroy his business (Did he prove it? He isn’t required to.) Since he sent us the fax we have to turn this over to the Department of Justice. They’ll get back to you in 30 months.

And don’t forget, that relief of your mortgage and your credit debt under the SSCRA while you were activated has expired, so pay that mortgage you qualified for under your previous employment or we’ll take your house; you don’t expect us to let a mortgage company lose money do you? What kind of an American are you?
So, thanks for your service, and have a nice day.

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