ESGR protects service members' rights, thanks supportive employers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anna-Marie Wyant
  • 127th Public Affairs
Guardsmen and Reservists with civilian jobs know the importance of coordinating military duties with their civilian employers. But how can they show their appreciation to understanding employers, or how can they ensure employers respect their rights? Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve does both and more.

ESGR, a Department of Defense organization, has served as a liaison between service members and their employers since it was established in 1972. Although ESGR has been offering its services to military members in all branches for nearly four decades, few are aware of the organization, said Mal Forys, an ESGR Military Outreach Representative for Southeastern Michigan.

"Two thirds of service members don't even know we exist," Forys said. Forys, a retired master sergeant from the Michigan Air National Guard, said he was unaware of ESGR until after his retirement.

Forys said a poll from ESGR headquarters in Arlington, Va., shows why it is important for service members knowing their rights and utilize ESGR's services.

"Thirty-four percent of [service members] said Reserve obligation causes problems in their civilian jobs," Forys said, "and 56 percent have missed vacation time to perform Reserve duties. "

Forys said it is illegal for employers to force employees to use vacation time for military obligations. He added that 15 percent of service members believe they have been denied a promotion because of military duties, which is also against the law. Furthermore, 10 percent are considering leaving their civilian jobs due to conflicts with military commitments, Forys said, which is a problem ESGR can help remedy.  But ESGR is not just for service members; employers are entitled to certain benefits as well.

"If the service member is abusing his rights, we will represent the employer also," Forys said. Beyond that, Forys said there are awards and certificates ESGR presents to supportive employers nominated by their employees ranging from local to national recognition.

"It's a pat on the back," said John H. Becker, an ESGR representative who works alongside Forys.  Becker, a retired chief petty officer first class from the Naval Reserve, said he nominated his civilian boss for an award two decades ago.

"At that time, my schedule was all over the board with the reserves," Becker said. "My boss didn't mind; he gave me the time off that I needed."

Becker, then a manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield, said he found out about ESGR's employer awards program and wrote a five-page nomination for his boss. He said his nomination led his boss to win the top award for the state.

In addition to awards, ESGR offers various outreach programs, including base tours and incentive flights exclusively for employers, Forys said. Such tours may include aircraft static displays, flights on military aircraft, and rides in Coast Guard boats. Forys said the purpose of the tours is to show appreciation to employers and let them see what their employees do in their military jobs.

ESGR is more than willing to show gratitude to employers who are supportive of military employees, Forys said, but Reservists and Guardsmen must go to the ESGR Web site to nominate their bosses.

"It's the service member's responsibility to inform their bosses," Forys said. "If they have a boss who is at all interested, let us know!"

The ESGR office is located in the base chapel, building 168, and is open Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Forys is available to answer questions and can be reached at (586) 239-5370. For more information, visit the ESGR Web site at www.esgr.mil.