Vector supports guards and reservists when away

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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Before Sept. 11, 2001, Vector Security aided employees who belonged to the National Guard and Reserves by continuing their full-time status while away at annual military missions.
Shortly after the terrorist attack, like many companies Vector, a full-service alarm company with branches throughout the United States, reevaluated its human resources policy to meet the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which created a service with 1,000 trained ombudsmen to interpret the act for employees.
"An employee will not lose because he or she has served the county, and their future employment will allow them to reach the potential they would have reached had they not been a member of the reserves or guard," said Ombudsman Courtney Wheeler, for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an organization that advocates the act.
Now that the country is at war, more guardsmen and reservists who are part of the security industry are being called to active duty. As employees leave, employers have an obligation to comply with the act. However, the nature of the security industry, especially with an installation company, presents unique issues in meeting the standards set forth by USERRA. Vector found that requirements for state licensing, industry certification and installation jobs call for varied time commitments over the course of a year. When employees return from duty, questions arise about how to return employees to their jobs.
John Murphy, Vector's president, was committed to protect his serving employees. "He wanted to do something more for his employees, especially because it would be likely that they would be called away for different duty tours," said Louise Urbanek, vice president of human resources.
According to Wheeler, who began working with Vector to comply with USERRA, the employer's goal is simply to put the person back to work.
Going further to obey the act, "The employer is required to place the person back in the job they would have been in had they not been departed for military service," Wheeler said. "That can often be a job that they would have been promoted to during the time they were gone." It also can be a job, "which the individual would have gotten additional training or skill sets during that timeframe," he added.
Currently Vector has employees around the company who are part of the air force, marines, FEMA reserve, and the army that have been called up on various occasions. With guidance from the USERRA, Vector devised a policy to provide financial assistance for employees during the time after they departed for their assignment, said Urbanek.
Ken Lucas, an alarm technician in the Columbia, Md., branch has been with Vector for five years and is also a military police officer who has served in three tours.
Lucas was part of the first military police company to be on the ground at the Pentagon after the plane crash on Sept. 11, 2001. He was overseas in Afghanistan for nine months starting in August 2003. "Once I got the call, I told the manager, when I was leaving and what I was doing. They backed me up 100 percent," Lucas said.
Lucas said Vector was very supportive of his obligations with the military. When leaving for Afghanistan, his manager and fellow employees said, "Take care of yourself. If you need anything give us a call or e-mail." Lucas kept in touch his manager monthly to give them an update of whatever he knew. "He would ask me, 'How are things over there?' By those communications, I knew they were behind me," Lucas said.
In the spring of 2004, Vector asked Wheeler to attend the company's senior managers conference, where he conducted a training session for human resources and operational managers to clarify and expand on the purpose of the USERRA laws. At the time, Vector was recognized by the federal government for its continuous support of its Military Reserve and National Guard Employees. Each branch received a framed copy of the statement, which was signed by Murphy, Wheeler and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Vector is a model in this industry with an open willingness to do what was right and best for their employees, Wheeler said. "It is very unusual as early in my relationship with Vector to be asked to come up and provide several hours of training at a national meeting."
In essence, the relationship with companies is about solving anticipated problem areas, Wheeler added, and Vector has done it very well.