Job discrimination against soldiers

Do we really support our troops who are fighting overseas for our safety? Think about this: every year over 1,000 troops returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan are denied jobs because of their military obligations.

Surprisingly, the biggest culprit is the federal government. According to the Washington Post, jobs for our soldiers have been withdrawn due to slow release from duty or from absences related to their military assignments. It is against the law to punish soldiers for their military service, yet more than 18 percent of the 1,548 complaints that have been filed were against federal agencies.

Soldiers have a right to be confused because, while one branch of the government is giving them the right to risk their lives to defend their country, another branch is not defending their rights when they come back home to find work.

After speaking with Gunnery Sergeant Doug Mederos, it became clear that Mederos was very familiar with the struggles many soldiers faced when seeking employment. In order to help defend soldiers’ rights, the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act was passed.

One of USERRA’s main purposes stated in section 4301 is “to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services” (Title 38, United States Law). Unfortunately, it does not look like the government will be demanding the enforcement of this law any time soon, regardless of how many violations are filed with the Department of Labor.

While a private company has to double a soldier’s lost wages, the government only has to pay their exact wages. Here, it is clear that the government gets off easily while they force other companies to follow a more rigorous type of action.

Federal or private, companies across the country have been documented as refusing employment to soldiers. Defense agencies such as the Army, Navy and Air Force filed 75 USERRA cases with the Department of Labor last year alone, according to the Washington Post.

Federal officials have stated that the biggest challenge has been educating supervisors in the field of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense national committee that tries to resolve issues through means of mediation and education. The Defense Department and six other agencies formed a group last year to help achieve federal compliance with USERRA.

In addition to discrimination, soldiers also face the obstacle of their service conflicting with employment opportunities. A soldier will often apply for a job before their service date is up and unfortunately that date is not flexible whatsoever. Therefore, some will lose their jobs due to their late start.

Mederos pointed out that some of the obstacles soldiers faced were more individual by nature. He has noticed that the retired soldiers are more mature and often have families to support and other responsibilities that keep them grounded.

“The younger soldiers seem to be less mentally prepared to switch gears and enter civilian work,” said Mederos to the Guilfordian.

Additionally, soldiers applying for government jobs often have trouble transforming their resume from highlighting military skills to highlighting the professional skills needed for most jobs.

“Nor do they realize that, when they return home, they, too, will be treated without fairness or compassion by the powerful institutions and interests that govern our country,” said Joe Cole, visiting assistant professor of philosophy.

From a business standpoint, even more challenges present themselves. The owner of the business has the success of his business as their first priority.

“Businesses need to succeed and if a person leaves they need to fill that job,” said Political Science major Tamer El-Amoor. “Business can’t wait and hold a job opening for a person that has gone to war.”

While these obstacles might take some of the heat off the government, they still play a factor in our soldiers’ struggle to find jobs. It’s important to realize that many of these men have dedicated their lives to defending this country. The latest statistics reflect a country that is unable to accommodate even some of its most dedicated and heroic civilians.