Like other employers across the country, Harvard is adjusting to the prospect that members of its faculty and staff who are reservists or members of the National Guard may be called to active duty. To provide Harvard employees with additional protection from financial loss if they are activated, President Lawrence H. Summers has announced that Harvard will continue to pay those employees the difference between their military pay and their Harvard salary for the full length of their activation.
“Harvard has no legal obligation to provide this compensation,” said Summers, “but will offer it to afford our employees protection from the financial loss often suffered by those who serve.”
The 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) sets out the rights of full-time employees who leave their jobs when their units are activated. It does not require employers to compensate these employees while they are being paid by the military. However, Harvard has had a policy of paying them the difference between their military and Harvard salaries for 90 days. Now that policy will be extended to cover the entire time of their activation.
The USERRA, which was written in response to the experience of those called up for temporary military service during the Gulf War, also requires that those who serve be allowed to return to the position they would have had if they had never left or one that is equivalent in terms of seniority, status, and pay. At Harvard, such employees will be placed on paid leave and the University will continue to contribute to their medical and pension plans.
A recent informal survey of Harvard’s human resource deans and directors found that there were 20 known Harvard employees who have either already served or who expect to be called up soon; 10 of whom work in central administration. The University has no complete record of those who could be activated, so it is difficult to prepare for unexpected departures.
Among those who have already been notified to report for active duty, the circumstances have varied. In one case, a staff member was called to serve in a unit nearby and was able, because of his schedule, to remain in regular contact with his office and colleagues. Two other staff members had only a week or so to prepare to go on duty for six months and had to quickly create transition memos describing their work for the temporary employee or other staff who would take on their responsibilities.