November/December  2003

From the Editor

Tie a 
Yellow Ribbon

The fall seems to always be a busy time of year. A big reason for this in the building products industry is the annual convention of the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD), formerly known as the National Sash & Door Jobbers (NSDJA) Convention, which was held October 12-16 in Orlando, Fla.

The convention was well executed. While attendance on the show floor was down, the educational seminars were jam-packed. If you missed this year’s convention, you can read about products displayed at the show, the show’s educational offerings and more on page 28. 

I try each month to give you a heads-up on what articles are in that month’s issue, and sometimes I write about what’s going on in my life. In the September issue, I told you how my husband, Jeff, had been put on military alert and asked if any of your companies had been affected by the military deployment of employees. (My husband has, in fact, been activated and will be gone to Iraq for 12 months.)

I had a call from one reader in Ohio who spent 40 years in the military. He owns a mom-and-pop business, and didn’t know how his company would survive if one of its employees was deployed and he was required to hold his job.

At the convention, I spoke with AMD president Brian McIlwee who felt it would be beneficial to have an article about employer responsibilities to employees put on active duty. His company J.J. McIlwee Co. of Itasca, Ill., has an inside salesperson who was deployed recently.

Here is some helpful information from an article by Steven Haber, a partner at Obermayer RebmanMaxwell and Hippel LLP of Philadelphia, on employer responsibilities. (You can read Haber’s article in its entirety at 

“Employees are eligible for military leave for active duty, training for active duty, inactive duty training, initial active duty training and full-time reserve and National Guard duty. Covered services include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

Unless employment is temporary, a leave of absence must be granted. A cumulative total of five years of the employee’s total employment with the employer can be taken, but there are eight exceptions that cannot be counted toward the five-year total.

Federal law does not require the employer to pay wages or supplement military pay, unless the employer pays employees when they are on other types of leave. Employees can use vacation time for leave, but cannot be required to do so.

An employee returning from military leave is entitled to seniority and seniority-based benefits as though the employee had worked through the leave. Employees on military leave with non-seniority-based benefits are entitled to participate in benefit programs to the same extent as employees on other types of leave. If the employer provides different benefits for different types of leave, then the most favorable of those benefit packages must be made available to employees on military leave.

Similar to COBRA, an employee on military leave can choose to continue health coverage at the employee’s expense for up to 18 months. If the military leave is less than 31 days, the employer and employee each pay their respective shares of the premium. Over 31 days, employers may charge 100 percent for health coverage, plus a 2-percent administrative fee. If an employee’s health coverage lapses during military leave, the employee cannot be subjected to waiting periods for pre-existing condition exclusions on reinstatement of the coverage.

The employee must be reemployed promptly in the position the employee would have obtained if continuously employed, including promotions based on “time in service.” If the employee cannot be qualified for the higher position, the employee can be reinstated to the position held previously. If the employee is no longer qualified for that position, then he must be reassigned to a position of like or lesser pay. If the leave was for 91 days or more, the final position offered must be of equivalent seniority, status and pay to the prior position.

An employer cannot discriminate or discharge an employee based on military service. If the court finds an employment decision adverse to the employee, then the court will rule that the employer acted illegally.

This is not all the information included in the Soldier and Sailor’s Act and should not be considered legal advice, but I hope this gives you an idea of an employer’s responsibilities. If you have specific questions concerning military leave, you should consult legal counsel."

Samantha Carpenter, editor


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