That stands for Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. It became law in 1994 and in broad strokes, the purpose is to bar employers from firing a reservist of any branch who is called up involuntarily for active service. In similar fashion to the requirement that employers cannot penalize a reservist because of their weekend drills and their two week annual training.
I’m a little torn on this issue and as a result don’t have a solid opinion on whether or not this is a positive or negative, regardless of whether or not the law can be justified as a legitimate interference of the government in the inner workings of the private sector.
The first issue I have is that we must have a body of reservists that may be called up in emergencies, such as war or a disaster of some kind. If this protection was done away with, military spending would have to be increased to cover the cost of having less reservists and so paying to have more active duty personnel. That means hirer taxes, or higher borrowing levels, and the better outcome may indeed be this law.
On the other hand, if a business wishes to discriminate I don’t have a problem with that. If I had been fired for any of the times I was called up, I would be happy to leave such a detestable workplace. It’s also likely that the public would be a little angry about this and I think a lot of companies would be destroyed by public sentiment. Which I suspect these days would be the result of the majority of businesses clearly guilty of discrimination of almost any kind if widespread. If a business owner is racist against blacks, I would frankly say a black person would be better off for not being hired into that environment, and again, it would very likely be the ruin of many companies.
Forcing a racist, or someone who is full of dislike or hate for service members, to hire or rehire them doesn’t do much to get rid of those feelings, on the contrary, I would expect it to strengthen them.
The one thing I do know is that there are certainly some employers who should be required by law to hire or rehire those who have missed work because of being called up.
The goddamn government! Consider how stupid this is for a moment. Let’s say I work for the Dept. of Agriculture and I get called up to be deployed overseas or to respond to a major flood or something. When I get back, I find that my job is no longer there for me and they have decided to keep the temp who was replacing me. So the government has involuntarily taken me from my job, deployed me to a war or disaster zone, then told me to pound sand when I get back. We obviously should not allow that to happen, it would be like me hiring someone to clean one room in my house, demand they clean another, then firing them because they have stopped cleaning one the first one.**
I’m sure this law passes constitutional muster, because Congress has the express power to raise and support armies as they see fit. The same reason I feel Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was constitutional. The question I’m wrestling with here is whether this is a protection, or a restriction, of the freedom I think people should have. Strangely, I feel it might be both. If we allow private employers to fire people who are called up, we would certainly have a less able reserve force than we do now. Many would not join the reserves if they were likely to lose their job because of it in the future. As I mentioned, it is very likely employers would keep this practice because of strong public sentiment, if nothing else. For example, many employers actually continue to pay their employees (at least for a time) who are deployed, even though they have no obligation to do so.
This isn’t an easy topic to think about, I still don’t know how I feel, because I can’t figure out which option is the least intrusive and most positive from the standpoint of maximum freedom. As it stands now, a reduction in reserve component strength would be a huge blow to state and federal disaster plans, and very likely to critically damage our defensive and offensive military capabilities. All the while costing more money, and taking more people out of the productive sector of the economy to be full time soldiers, airman and sailors, rather than economically productive part-time ones.
**This seems to be a rather common occurrence in the various government organs. Being fired by your employer because you are working for the same employer is just stupid to the point of being almost unbelievable.