Cory Schuyler was out on a National Guard training day when he says he received an ultimatum from his boss. Schuyler, who spent 13 years on active duty, mostly in the Army Special Forces, was told that he had to choose: The National Guard or his job.
His employer, NEK Advanced Securities Group Inc., a government contractor that trains Special Operation forces, had hired Schuyler because of his military experience. And by law, employers are not allowed to discriminate against workers for their military service. So Schuyler balked, and contacted NEK's human resources department.
A couple of months later the company fired him -- citing performance issues -- but Schuyler believes that the real reason was his Guard duty. "My supervisor had animus towards anyone in the National Guard while holding a civilian job," says Shuyler, who has filed suit against NEK. The company didn't respond to AOL Jobs' requests for comment.
It's well known that some companies are wary of hiring veterans, but employer resistance to hiring National Guard and Reserves has been notoriously fierce -- with good reason, many say.
"They can't run the business with people on leave for 12, 18 months at a time," Ted Daywalt, a Navy veteran and the CEO of the leading military jobs site, VetJobs, told AOL Jobs. With the grinding decade-long wars, National Guard and Reserve members made up 28 percent of the 2.3 million service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, over half of veteran suicides since 2001 have been among members of the Guard and Reserve. The Washington Post noted last year. In 2011, the two employers that faced the highest number of discrimination complaints were the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. As Daywalt puts it: "That's like the police leading the rates of robberies, rapes and murders."
While it's illegal to discriminate against Guard and Reserve members, many believe that the practice is so rampant that it explains the high rate of veteran joblessness. The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans was 9.3 percent in February, according to the Department of Labor, compared to 7.3 percent for the non-veteran population. But a National Guard-specific survey at the end of 2012 found that more than 1 in 5 guardsmen were unemployed. Some Guard chapters report brigades returning home with unemployment rates exceeding 50 percent.
"That's what's skewing the numbers. Truly skewing the numbers," Daywalt asserts, adding that many reservists end up volunteering for second and third deployments, because they can't find other work. "It's like being caught in a death cycle."
No Simple Solution
In the past year, many National Guard units across the nation have been experimenting with ways to reduce the unemployment among their troops, offering resume-writing workshops and career counseling to help returning guardsmen translate their military experience into civilian-speak.
Finally, Schuyler gave up his dream of spending more time with his family, and returned to active duty. He's now stationed at an Air Force base in Florida. After 19 months apart, his family are finally coming to join him, and Schuyler's trial is set for October.
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