Diamond Store Manager Returns from Iraq Jobless
When Eric Justice, former store manager for Diamond Glass in Louisville, Ky., was deployed to Iraq with the National Guard in January 2008, he probably didn't expect his company to file for bankruptcy and be sold to Belron US while he was gone. He also probably didn't expect to return home to find he no longer had a job. But that's exactly what he says happened.
"I returned on February 15 and my store was one of the stores that closed," Justice says. "I went into the Louisville, Ky., Safelite store to obtain my job and was told by Todd Hoffman, the general manager for Louisville, that I had no job there."
Justice adds, "They kept everyone else from my store except me. I was told that they did not need me."
Belron US spokesperson Jenny Cain says the company's policy is to grant a leave of absence to any associate who is called to active military duty.
"We follow the Uniform Services Employment and Rights Reemployment Act (USERRA) and even go beyond that when we can to ensure that our associates that leave work to serve our country are treated fairly," says Cain.
However, Cain says that in Justice's case, his job was eliminated during the Diamond consolidation.
"In this case it was unfortunate that the associate's job was eliminated while he was on military leave and the location where he was employed was closed as part of the store consolidation after Belron US acquired Diamond Glass," says Cain. "Upon his return, the store where he was previously a store manager no longer existed and, unfortunately, there were not any open store manager or technician positions in the market."
Cain says that what happened to Justice was unfortunate, but is not the norm.
"We make every effort to care for the military men and women that work for us and this is evident by the nomination we received in 2008 for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their outstanding support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve," she says.
USERRA, the law designed to provide protection for those whose absence from their jobs is caused by call to active duty in the military, says that the employer is not required to re-employ a person if "the employer's circumstances have so changed as to make such re-employment impossible or unreasonable."
Justice is now working to open his own business, Auto Glass Solutions
LLC, in Louisville. During his 15 months in Iraq, his unit, the 223rd
Military Police Co., helped to train local Iraqi police and to secure
their area of operation. He was stationed in Baghdad at Camp Liberty.
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