One major component of his complaint was that his days off were adjusted to coincide with his military duty so the prison would not have to incur overtime expenses. Tully says he was also denied transfers to other prisons, as well as promotions. His performance evaluations reflected not his actual job performance, as they are designed to do, but absences due to his military service.
"Before 2001, the culture was that military service was voluntary," Tully says. "The warden said, 'Pick my career.' It was a blatant violation of the law."
But the former corrections officer eventually obtained satisfaction in a particularly ironic way: He used part of his settlement to put himself through law school. Tully's firm now represents individuals who believe they've been discriminated against in violation of the provisions of USERRA. But he also works with county and city attorneys to help departments stay in compliance with the USERRA statutes. And he admits there are some problems with the legislation.
"Since 9/11, the frequency of deployments has been unbelievable and employers are taking it on the chin," Tully admits.The future and beyond
How can agencies budget for tomorrow and still get the job done today? It's not easy, but experts say there are solutions.
Chris DeLay, a criminal justice educator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, says the tendency to think that the solution to budgeting problems is to cut police services is shortsighted. "It's a case of shooting yourself in the foot," DeLay says. But when a small town decides to disband its department and go with coverage from a larger agency, such as a county sheriff, an officer who is deployed while serving with the defunct department is simply out of luck. DeLay believes most modern departments have little problem with officers serving in the military.
"I think most municipalities kind of like reserving slots for people going on active duty — it saves their budget and gives them a little more economic spending room with salaries they didn't have to pay, cars that don't have to run," DeLay says.
Schultz agrees with DeLay and says there are ways for agencies to integrate planning for absences into their usual allocation and distribution of manpower.
"They first need to do an inventory or survey of all the individuals and positions that were occupied by military personnel," Schultz says. "Second, they need to make sure that any union contracts or local hiring policies comply with [USERRA]. Third, they need to explain to policy makers that, even with budget cuts, they are still responsible for rehiring soldiers when they return," Schultz says. He explains that replacements also need to be advised that their positions are temporary.
For law enforcement agencies that are impacted by deployments, the best plan is to simply roll with the punches: It's both the legally and morally right thing to do.
A 12-year veteran of police work, Carole Moore welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.