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For Employees: Reintegrating into Civilian Employment

For many service members, the return from deployment and readjustment to life at home frequently present some challenges, particularly for National Guard and reserve members who may not have the same natural community supports. Skills that kept them alive in hostile environments are not applicable in civilian life.

picture of man sawing down tree branches during an ice storm

Photo by Sgt. James Lally

For National Guard and reserve members, returning from deployment involves reintegration not only with family and friends, but also with their civilian employer. While their active-duty counterparts continue to “work” in the military, National Guard and reserve members face a civilian work culture they have been away from for some time.

National Guard and reserve members will find a number of resources for help and assistance. Here are some tips for situations that everyone commonly goes through as they make the rapid jump to civilian life and work.

Starting the Process

  • Consult with your commanding officer: He or she may have experience advising others with similar transitions or may be willing to speak to your employer on your behalf to address any concerns or to ensure a supportive environment for you when you return to work.
  • Talk about it: By talking with others, particularly other reservists going through the same process, you will relieve stress and realize that other people share your feelings.
    • Reach out to trusted relatives, friends or faith leaders. Help is also available at the Psychological Health Resource Center for questions about reintegration, resilience, other psychological health issues or traumatic brain injury by dialing toll-free 866-966-1020.
    • If your employer offers confidential services like an employee assistance program (EAP), take advantage of it. Such programs often provide excellent resources for making the transition back to work — as well as home and family — a healthy one.
  • Take care of your physical health: Get plenty of rest and exercise, eat healthfully and avoid drugs and excessive drinking to help you manage the stress more effectively.
  • Know your rights: The more that you, your boss and your personnel office know about the federal laws and legal precedents that involve reserve reemployment rights, rules and obligations protected by the laws, the less likely there will be a misunderstanding.
    • The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides that an employer must give you time off to perform military service and reemploy you following the service with status, seniority and rate of pay as though you never left.
    • The employer cannot discriminate against you because of your military connection. This protection applies to employees who are full-time, part-time or probationary.1

Returning to Your Civilian Job

  • Contact your supervisor: Before returning to work, ask for a briefing on the current situation, including issues such as how your responsibilities were handled during your absence, changes in personnel and new policies and projects.
  • Ease into your return to work: Focus on communicating, being patient, anticipating and accepting changes and using this time as an opportunity to start all over again.
  • Avoid “taking charge”: Recognize that your absence may have forced co-workers to take on some of your responsibilities, and they may resent it if they feel you’ve come back to take control or criticize them. Be supportive of decisions that were made and ease back into your previous role gently and with open communication.

Filing a Complaint with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR)

If you do encounter a snag, ESGR, an agency of the Department of Defense and organized as part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, offers an Ombudsman Services Program to provide a means by which disputes arising under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act can be informally mediated between employers and their Guard and reserve employees. Disputes between employers and employees can be resolved through the efforts of ESGR’s volunteer ombudsmen, located in all 50 states, four territories and Europe. The communications made by parties during informal mediation are protected by the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act.

Before a service member submits this complaint, they should familiarize themselves with the USERRA law. If you believe your rights under USERRA have been violated by an employer, you may also call 800-336-4590 (select option 1) to speak with an ESGR representative, or you may fill out the online the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Form 1010 through the Department of Labor.3

Additional Resources


1"The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act," Joint Services Support. Last accessed on Feb. 24, 2016.
2Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Last accessed on Feb. 24, 2016.
3"Form 1010," Department of Labor. Last accessed on Feb. 24, 2016.

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