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USERRA (keeping your job)
Last Post 23 Apr 2013 08:09 PM by NYBo. 4 Replies.
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VicNaz1User is Offline
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VicNaz1

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22 Apr 2013 03:32 PM

    I hope you all have heard of the USERRA. It stands for Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and it was enacted so that folks in uniform who had to go away for Military duty would not be fired from a job because of it. Because Title 14 states that laws and regulations that cover the Coast Guard do not apply to the Auxiliary unless they specifically say so, that means that because the Aux. are not specifically in the USERRA, you may not get anything out of it.


    "So what?" Well, here's the lay of the land on that. You have to make sure that younger folks who ask about joining the Aux. are aware of this little detail. It's not so much that they have 'manditory' or 'compulsory' duty, it's that if they are kept away from work for some reason, due to their service, they may get fired from their 'day' job. 


    Again you may say "So what?" all duty is voluntary.


    Well, that's true and it isn't. The first thing I can point out is that if you are involuntarily injured while assigned to duty and keeps you from work, you can be fired.


    "What?!?"


    Yup, If you go out on a Sunday patrol on the water or in the air or even if you just go and participate in a radio drill and somehow get hurt, the Coast Guard will cover your medical expenses but Uncle Sam stops short of telling your mean old boss to let you keep your job. Your individual state might have a law about this (possibly to protect Volunteer Firefighters or something like that) but the USERRA probably won't cover you.


    It gets even more complicated. If you are assigned to duty and for whatever reason you are working at an active duty station or facility and the O in C or the Commanding Officer tells you you have to stay, you have to stay. The fact that you are a volunteer doesn't mean you can bail out like you can when you're on an auxiliary boat patrol. It's rare but it happened to some folks in my unit just last year. They flew to Elizabeth City for a conference and even though the weather was predicted to go bad the station commander would not let them leave. They had to stay overnight (expenses were covered) because of this.


    Now, it happened to be a Saturday and no one had to be at work that next morning but the gist of it is that the commander was within his rights to insist that everyone stay at the seminar, even though it meant that they would probably not get home until some time the next day. There's more to this story but it's not part of this discussion. 


    This can happen on a boating mission too. If the active duty folks overseeing an Aux. mission deem it too unsafe for you to go home while you're on the water they can order you to the nearest safe harbor until they deem it safe. That's just the way it is. In fact, the Coast Guard can do that to any boat on the water if they deem a voyage manifestly unsafe but that's another issue.


    So, you end up in a safe harbor and there you stay unless you happen to be able to get a ride. If you miss work the next day be careful and very polite to your boss. If you can, call him or her as soon as you think you have a problem and don't ever try to 'throw' weight around as if Uncle Sam and the USERRA would protect you because it probably won't. Politeness however may go a long way and most companies would rather avoid firing a good employee anyway. On top of that, what company wants to get the bad publicity of firing a man or woman in uniform who's lying in a hospital bed.


    These circumstances are rare. Really rare but not impossible. Many of us have faced the possibility of injury while assigned to duty and if a prospective member asks, we have to be honest with him or her. They'll be taken care of for their medical bills but maybe not for their job. Check with your local laws and if you have a friend who's an attorney, maybe ask him or her also.

    BellsUser is Offline
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    Bells

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    22 Apr 2013 05:30 PM
    I guess I can see why you are posting this, but if you have a civilian job, and you break your leg saving somebody from a burning car, you can lose your job for that too. If I go to a trampoline park and land on my tail bone, mess up some nerves, and therefore the CG were to medboard me, I would still be losing my job. If I was doing boat ops and the wire off the helo takes my arm with it, I still will lose my job, I might get disability, but I would rather have the job.

    Not many careers are going to give you benefits if you get hurt, the military just happens to be one of them. I appreciate the aux's help, and again I get your point, but they aren't active duty. They aren't living the life that active duty is living so I think in most cases they shouldn't receive the same benefits.

    You could get mad at me for thinking this way, but it's my opinions. Active duty is putting up a larger sacrifice for the benfits we receive.
    Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
    CGNY2013User is Offline
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    23 Apr 2013 07:14 AM
    Bells I think Vic was speaking specifically while under order not while playing in the back yard or performing a civilian good sam duty. As a full time coastie if you lost your arm during ops the CG may fire you but you would certainly have a life time of compensation enabling you to have financial security due to your service for your country, right? In essence, Aux is out doing a "job" under orders of the United States Coast Guard yet should an incident occur, we would not be backed up and excused at work as the other military personnel would be. What if I was a reservist and got injured while working CG? Heck, just working the drill weekend I am automatically excused from work so why would this not hold true for Aux? I do see both sides of the coin but I am on the side of Aux on this one. What we all do all for a sense of pride and doing our part is great and all for a sense of pride with no financial compensation whatsoever. In fact, quite the opposite. We pay for all our uniforms out of our pocket. Any equipment we need to make our vessels a facility, we pay for. PFDs, we pay for. Fuel to drive to meetings, training and missions, we pay for. Trust me it all adds up and adds up quickly. IMO Aux should have the support of the CG should an incident occur and we can't make work. Again, IMO.

    ALSO, Vic posted above... " the Coast Guard will cover your medical expenses " , This is not entirely true. At our Division Ops meeting last night it was stressed that Aux does not have a blanket liability coverage policy. If the CG deems there was an operational error or feels mistakes were made, they can deny liability coverage. IMO this is bad because it opens things up to human interpretation and we all know that can go in many ways. Yes CYA and cross your t's and dot your i's, but sometimes, SH*! happens and it would be nice to know that the CG has our back as volunteers putting ourselves in harms way to help others. Our DCP put the pressure out last night that OPs will be stepping up with sequestration and we really need to put out. I agree and most do as this is why we signed up. With the potential of increased orders and pressure to increase training and continually maintain proficiency, some support would be nice and much appreciated. Times are changing so we all need to consider making changes and growing with these trying times to support the CG mission. Semper Paratus!
    "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." C. S. Lewis
    VicNaz1User is Offline
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    VicNaz1

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    23 Apr 2013 08:11 AM
    Hi guys,
    I posted this to make sure everyone has the information and to perhaps facilitate discussion on this topic. Bells is completely correct. The active duty walks the walk and deserves more. I think a point may have been missed however. This isn't a moan-and-groan issue. Of course I'd like to know that I'm protected if, while assigned to duty, in uniform, under the lawful command of an active duty commander (enlisted or officer) that I won't end up homeless and poor as a result of doing so. If I'm killed, that's another story, my wife gets a check and a small pension and I get a free pine box.

    That said I go into this with open eyes. I will indeed drive to station and go out on the 41 or one of the 25's or (when I'm permitted) on the new 45 or even on the black hull in Baltimore, even without USERRA. I'll do my best to walk the talk and serve as best I can. I'll do my best to avoid injury or circumstance where I may miss work and I'll also do my best to carefully deal with and inform my boss and civilian employers.

    This posting is for information. I didn't know these things when I joined. I read Article 14 in its entirety the first month I attended a meeting and did my best to understand the new members' material and later the Aux. Manual and the Operations Manual. Even so it was almost 2 years before I correctly understood (even with questions to my superiors) that getting hurt or being retained on duty and missing work could get me fired. Thus, when this issue came up within my unit I started thinking it through very carefully and posted this targeted at 2 types of folks.

    First target, prospective auxiliary members. We're all adults here (give or take) and anyone looking to join the Aux. (and those who might recruit them) should know the facts. Each and every Aux. member should understand at least the macroscopic legal issues such as Assignment to duty and the USERRA. They should understand the limits of authority and really, REALLY understand the concept of responsibility. In this case, the lack of USERRA makes it clear that an Aux. has to be very specifically responsible for him or her self. If you're going on a mission, tell your boss. If you're recruiting a new member, make sure that newby knows the score. If you live in a state that has protections on the books, look them up!

    Second target, active duty personnel who may accept Aux. assigned to duty at a station, on a cutter or under any other circumstances. A commander who's got active duty or reserve under his or her command expects that whatever the case, the person being 'commanded' won't suffer extreme undue hardship (outside of the hazards of serving) simply for obeying commands. If a commander orders a reservist out on a mission and that person is delayed from getting to work the next day, for whatever reason, the commander is probably used to thinking that is no big deal. Well, that's not necessarily true for Aux. under his or her command and this little gotcha is something to keep in mind.

    Anyway, anyone who knows anything about this stuff please chime in. Especially those who might know something about state employment protection laws. Also, anyone with specific stories on this subject are welcome to post here. It might help some folks understand the issues and even derive a few solutions. It might also show people a few things about what to do and what NOT to do.
    NYBoUser is Offline
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    NYBo

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    23 Apr 2013 08:09 PM
    Vic, I would like to thank you for this valuable information. As a government employee, I don't think I have a lot to worry about in this area, but that isn't the case for most in my flotilla.
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