Job Worries for Guard Members? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Job Worries for Guard Members?

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Tim Nolan Tim Nolan

Colchester, Vermont - July 24, 2009

"These are my multiple branches," Tim Nolan explained. "I have five honorable discharges I keep."

Nolan calls his military service the best part of his life.

"These are all my certificates of achievement and appreciation," he said.

Nolan is being deployed to Afghanistan with the Army National Guard. He wonders if he'll have a job to come back to.

"The hardest about deploying is not leaving. That is not the hardest part," he said. "The hardest part is coming back and trying to pick up your life and the pieces where they were."

He was hired in October as a temporary correctional officer at the state prison in Springfield. He was told he'd be promoted to any permanent job that opened up, based on seniority. But he says he and two other Guardsmen were passed over for promotions as soon as their bosses learned they'd be deployed.

"When we all met we realized something is not right. Why are we all being passed over for promotion? Just conveniently we're at the bottom of the list," he said.

Guard spokesman Lloyd Goodrow says 1,500 Vermonters are about to be deployed overseas. Half of them work in civilian jobs. He says the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, allows service members to perform their military functions without having to worry about losing their civilian jobs.

"Generally speaking temporary workers are not covered under USERRA unless there's an expectation those temporary employments will lead to full time, in which case they would have USERRA protection," Goodrow explained.

Goodrow would not comment specifically on the Springfield prison case.

Vt. Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito says the prison system has a long history of accommodating employees who are guard members. But he has ordered an investigation of the complaints.

"My initial information is that there isn't any merit to this allegation," Pallito said. "But until we have the full report, I won't know that. If there is merit to this allegation, it will likely result in employee discipline."

"I just want a job, if you want the truth," Nolan said. "I want what's right and what's fair."

Nolan says he's not planning to sue; he just wants to speak up so future guardsmen don't face the same challenges. But he says at least one of his fellow prison guards is planning to take the issue to court.

Click here for more on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Kate Duffy - WCAX News

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