Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2009

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Veterans/Military Law:  

Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a program created by the Secretary of Defense in 1973 with the mission of gaining and maintaining employer support for Guard and Reserve service by recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness and calling upon volunteer ombudsmen to resolve conflicts between service members and their employers through informal mediation.

Dedicated ombudsman
and staff have handled almost 1,000 cases since the start of the Golbal War on Terrorisim.

The State of Maryland maintains a vigorous ESGR program. George L. Doetsch, Jr., of Apple Ford, Chairs the Free State’s ESGR effort, and the dedicated ombudsmen and staff have handled almost 1,000 cases since the start of the Global War on Terrorism in September 2001.

At the present time, there are approximately 15,000 authorized positions in the Reserve Components of the United States Armed Forces in Maryland. As reserve deployments continue with many citizen/soldiers taking multiple military leaves of absences from their civilian employment, the role of the ESGR program has become increasingly important especially for the soldiers/airmen/sailors and marines facing employment issues upon their return to Maryland.

All deploying and returning reservists receive briefings explaining their rights and obligations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Among the important information provided is the 1-800-336-4590 number to seek ESGR assistance.

Maryland citizens have sought assistance from the ESGR staff to resolve wide-ranging issues from simple pay and return-to-work questions to often subtle legal interpretations impacting promotions while deployed, annual leave accrual and job assignment after merger or acquisition.

Although no legal training is required and all ESGR ombudsmen receive extensive initial and ongoing instruction, often at interesting venues and at Government expense, the ESGR program enjoys the additional benefit of having several Maryland attorneys on the roster of volunteers. For any attorney desiring an opportunity to provide actual pro bono support and assistance to returning soldiers, there are few programs more relevant and compelling than ESGR.

The volunteer ombudsmen in Maryland enjoy an outstanding record for successfully mediating service member-employer issues and it is indeed the exception rather than the rule when a case must be referred for further action. Nevertheless, the USERRA statute(38 U.S.C. Chapter 43) does authorize U.S. Department of Labor investigation and court action by the Department of Justice and/or by private counsel, with attorneys fees, should an employer fail to provide to a reservist the employment protections guaranteed under USERRA.

The Maryland Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve operates out of the historic Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore and is staffed on a full-time basis by two men who also served as Air National Guardsmen, Lt. Col. William “Butch” Hensel and Chief Master Sergeant (Retired) Ray Ayres. They may be reached at (410) 234-3809, or mgr@mdesgr.org with a website of www.mdesgr.org.

Michael G. Comeau is a retired LTC and JAG Officer with the Maryland Army National Guard, having served in Afghanistan, Kosovo and GuantanamoBay. He now serves as the Ombudmen Director for the Maryland ESGR program.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2009

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