Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Companies Jam Phones to Obtain Information on Reservist Benefits

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Companies Jam Phones to Obtain Information on Reservist Benefits

Article excerpt

Companies are jamming goverment phone lines to find out what benefits they are obligated to provide employees who may be called to active duty as military reservists.

Small business operators said Tuesday they would have the most difficult time filling the gaps created by absent reservists called to support operations in the Persian Gulf.

``It can be hurtful. It's all I've been thinking about,'' said Ted Thomas, a dentist in solo practice in Clinton, N.C. ``I have no one to cover for me, and my patients would have to go elsewhere for treatment. It would almost be like starting over once I return.''

Thomas and others like him may request exemptions if called. But they would have to prove ``severe hardship,'' and even then there are no guarantees, military experts said.

For big business, the impact is softened by bigger numbers.

``We probably have 9,600 employees total; probably 40 to 50 are involved in the reserves, so that small a ratio in essence wouldn't have that big of an impact,'' said Disney Reece, director of human resources for Memorex Telex Corp.'s storage systems group in Tulsa.

Medical personnel as well as people with expertise in communications and electronics are likely to be in highest demand.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island, hospital officials are making plans to replace anyone called to duty. Administrative assistant Marlin Schuh speculated the impact will be minimal, ``unless they took some of the critical specialists, like a skilled surgeon.''

Though federal laws were put in place in the 1940s to protect reservists from losing their jobs, confusion abounds. The number of businesses seeking information on the law has tripled in the past few days compared with normal August activity, said Maj. Austin Smith at the Defense Department's National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves.

The committee is scrambling to get guidelines out in overnight mail to district offices that can work with businesses on a local basis. …

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