DOD deploys online tool for soldiers facing employment discrimination

As it copes with the ballooning task of supporting waves of National Guard members and reservists returning from combat, the Pentagon has deployed an online tool to help the soldiers resolve problems obtaining jobs.

Returning Guard and Reserve members' employment rights are secured by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Pentagon said Friday.

The Pentagon provides an Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Web site to help reservists contact one of 900 volunteer ombudsmen who help the soldiers enforce their rights under the job rights law, the Defense Department said.

Now, reservists will be able to contact the ombudsmen via a direct link on the ESGR site, according to a press statement.

'Users explain the problem they're having and provide contact information for both themselves and their employers, and the information is stored on a secure server,' according to the Pentagon's press statement. The ESGR service then assigns the problem to an ombudsman who contacts the reservist within 48 hours, the release said.

If the ombudsmen fail to resolve a problem within two weeks, they refer the soldier to the Labor Department. Labor has legal authority to enforce compliance with the employment rights law.

'While guardsmen and reservists have always been able to e-mail us from the Web site, the USERRA Complaint Request allows them the opportunity to initiate an ombudsman case online at any time of the day or night,' said Philip T. Pope, ESGR's acting executive director. 'The online request will complement the customer service center in making ESGR more accessible to guardsmen and reservists serving all over the world.'

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