The Iowa House has approved a bill which would establish new penalties for businesses that fail to keep a job open for an employee in the National Guard or Reserve who’s called up for active duty. Representative McKinley Bailey, a Democrat from Webster City who served in the regular Army from 1999 to 2004 and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, is the bill’s chief sponsor.
“Over the last several years our National Guard and Reserves have borne a fairly heavy burden. They’ve done a lot for the defense of our country and the service of our state,” Bailey says. “They weathered long deployments and a great number of them have been injured and so our goal here in the legislature needs to be that to make sure their transition back to civilian life is as easy as possible.”
The bill was drafted in response to the plight of a National Guard soldier who was deployed for 15 months and had trouble going back to work at her physical therapy job. Bailey points out the company involved was based out-of-state, in St. Louis.
“So many of our businesses, the vast majority, 99.9 percent don’t even need a law to know what the right thing to do is…and so I want to thank those businesses,” Bailey says. “…To that .1 percent, I think it’s also important to send a message that we’re watching and that Iowans not only expect these sorts of things, they demand them.”
Representative Jodi Tymeson, a Republican from Winterset who just retired from the Iowa National Guard, says Iowans should be proud of how the vast majority of Iowa businesses treat workers who’re in the guard and reserve. “Many employers provide pay differentials, including a large insurance company that also paid deployed employees their annual bonus,” Tymeson says. “That certainly is above expectations.”
A business owner found guilty of failing to give a returning guard or reserve soldier a job that’s equal in pay and status to the one they left would be charged with a misdemeanor. The bill cleared the Iowa House without a dissenting vote and is expected to pass the Iowa Senate in similar fashion.