One of the first things my recruiter asked me was why I was picking reserves over active duty.One of the biggest reasons I gave was I enjoyed my civilian career. I would not be content giving up a passion of mine and achievements I worked hard to gain. If you are in a similar boat and are joining the reserves to enjoy a civilian and military career here is my advice on how to handle your employer and yourself.
- Know your rights. Familiarize yourself with the USERRA act. This is where all your legal protections are when it comes to workplaces being cooperative with service members. Some of the big takeaways are: paid days off for military purposes (15 a year), they cannot fire you due to training or active duty, they are required to reemploy you after your leave of absence up to five years accrued time, you are entitled to pay bumps that would have been earned if you were there, and you must not be discriminated against in hiring processes. This act is extensive and includes many more items like notices given, reporting back to work, health, and benefit protections.
- Open communication. Start the lines of communication as early as you are able, this will probably need to happen before you swear in, especially if you need to take time off to go to MEPS or take an ASVAB. One nice thing about training is you know long it is and what dates you’ll be gone. Communicate this when it comes. After that you are to give notice as soon as you can if you are called up for active duty or additional training. USERRA recommends 30 days, if you are able to. USERRA says a commanding officer can also give notice to an employer, this might be better when the notice is less than 30 days.
- Respect is a two way street. This seems obvious but can go to the wayside in frustrating situations. Remember that your workplace may not have experience with USERRA. This situation can turn ugly if we forget to respect one another. If your boss is under the impression you need to take vacation days to go to MEPS or for your drill weekends that can be irritating (personal experience). You can always call a USERRA rep to help guide your workplace or decide to inform your boss in a positive manner yourself. My approach was “let’s learn together” and seemed to go over well.
- Be a part of the plan/solution, when it comes to your leave of absence. Some jobs it could be difficult for someone to step out of role for an extended amount of time (teaching, nurse, etc.), others it won’t matter so much. This piece of advice is for those who have careers that your absence may greatly affect your work place. Knowing the plan might make it easier on you as well, it could help with preparing a timeline for leaving or coming back and reduce stress. However, you are under no obligation to help your work figure out what to do in your leave of absence. At the end of the day the law is on the service members side but no one wants to start a fight with their bosses. Leaving on positive terms can is much easier and can help with a good return.
- Keep Options Open. This is a tip just for you/family. USERRA is there for you to utilize if you need/want to, and is for your protection. Keep in mind you do not have to return to your job even if you left with the intentions of coming back to work there and communicated that to your employer. If you are at AIT, or Bolc B, or on active duty leave and you manage to get a new civilian job lined up or decide you no longer wish to work at your job at home you can do this and not be penalized. However, my parents always said don’t quit a job until you have been hired somewhere else this way you have a means to live. Do what is best for you and your family.
If you have any questions drop a comment. I’ll be glad to do my best to help.