The war on terrorism has affected and will continue to affect the lives of Americans in many different ways. As a business owner, Dan Weidmann has felt the effects firsthand. In January 2003, after a week's notice, his purchasing manager, Kris Marshall, a captain in the National Guard, was deployed to Kuwait and eventually Afghanistan. He was gone 15 months. During that time, Weidmann and the 15 employees in his $5 million remodeling company in Roswell, Ga., reconfigured personnel and learned what a good team they were.
“When his return date kept extending,” says Weidmann, “I put his replacement back out in the field, and we reorganized again to adapt to the change.” The employees, many of them long-term, “stepped up to the plate and were very accepting of taking on new tasks.”
While he was away, Marshall, who had been with the company since 1998 (and with the Guard since 1997) stayed in touch through phone and e-mail, and the office kept in weekly contact with Marshall's wife. The company went above and beyond, Marshall says. They helped his wife relocate and did the work on a fixer-upper the couple had purchased before Marshall deployed, and they sent boxes of school supplies to two villages and an orphanage in Kabul.
Since Marshall's return, says Weidmann, who is former military, “Kris takes things more in stride in his job. Being [overseas] has made him a better employee. It gave him management training. He had quite a number of people reporting to him over there.” Now Marshall is a process manager, overseeing the transition from sales to production and following through by assisting project managers with changes and selections. He is the office representative to assist field personnel.
“I found out how good this company was in his absence,” says Weidmann, “and I got a better employee back in the end.”
According to research done by Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve ( www.esgr.org), the construction industry is one of the top 10 industry sectors employing guardsmen and reservists. Employers and reservist employees have certain obligations required by the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
- Do not discriminate against members of the Guard or Reserve.
- Give time off to guardsmen and reservists to perform military obligations.
- Reemploy the reservist in the same position or a position of similar status; employees continue to accrue seniority while on active duty.
- The employer does not have to provide pay or health benefits while the reservist is on active duty. Upon return the employee does not have to go through a vesting period for pension benefits, nor do they have to wait to sign up for health insurance.
- Provide notice of deployment to employer as soon as is practical.
- Be honorably discharged.
- Upon return, notify employer within 30 to 90 days.