When disaster strikes the state, members of the New Jersey National Guard consistently step up to defend and assist their community. A new bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano seeks to guarantee employment protections for any National Guard member called upon to protect the state during an emergency.
National Guard members are able to hold a civilian job but must always be ready to answer the call in the event of an emergency. Existing laws prevent employers from taking action against any National Guard member who takes a leave of absence to fulfill their military duty.
That means an employer cannot fire, demote or deny their employee any benefits or privileges (i.e.: health insurance) they would normally receive from the job, simply because the employee was called to active duty. The position must be available to the employee upon their return and they cannot be subject to any disciplinary measures because of their absence.
However, those rights do not currently extend to a member whose absence is due to a state-specific emergency. As such, this bill (A-5819/S-3594) would apply those employment protections to soldiers temporarily unable to attend their civilian job because they are called to state active duty.
“When New Jersey residents are facing a crisis, it’s our state’s National Guard that helps protect them from both natural and man-made dangers,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “These military members put their safety on the line to defend everyone else’s; we cannot let them face adverse job consequences as a result of their service.”
Historically, state active duty has included defense of bridges, tunnels and power plants during terrorist attacks such as 9/11. It has also included search and rescue efforts, debris removal, food and water distribution, damage surveys and more after severe weather events such as Superstorm Sandy.
“National Guard members have the right to maintain a private life alongside their military duties, which is why their civilian jobs deserve protection under the law whether they assist with a national or state-level emergency,” Quijano said.
The bill passed the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday and will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.