Bills would force TSA to follow USERRA
Published: December 20, 2011
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration has never been well loved by the American public – past polls have put its popularity on par with the Internal Revenue Service – but it’s even more reviled among military advocates.
That’s because the TSA is not subject to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which guarantees guardsmen and reservists their civilian jobs if they are called up for military duty. Now, a group of lawmakers is pushing to change that, forcing the agency to comply with the rules that nearly every other civilian employer has to follow.
Legislation introduced in the House and Senate last week would give TSA employees those USERRA protections, and prevent the agency from eliminating or changing their jobs if they are called up for military duty. Officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars said that has happened in at least two cases, and the agency has developed a reputation among reservists as a difficult place to work.
In a statement, TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy said the agency "is committed to protecting the employment and reemployment rights of our officers who voluntarily or involuntarily leave to serve in the U.S. armed forces." Officials say they voluntarily comply with USERRA rules, even though there is no legal mandate.
The agency, set up in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, at the time was given exemption from a host of labor laws because officials at the time worried they could delay hiring of new employees and the start of airport screenings.
Bill sponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said that the TSA currently employs 3,500 reservists and another 15,000 veterans. Daniel Elkins, legislative associate with the VFW, said the measure would “not only give our servicemembers working at TSA the re-employment rights they have earned, but it will also ensure TSA has unfettered access to the best and brightest our military has to offer.”
No hearings have been scheduled on the matter in either chamber, but a host of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have supported the idea in the days since it was announced.