SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, answers questions from Human Resources as part of a series for USA today.
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I was offered a new job where travel was not mentioned in the job description or discussed during the interview. In my job, travel is not uncommon, so I expected occasional trips. I expressed my desire to be local to one of the interviewers and indicated that I had no interest in frequent travel. I left my job of 15 years for this position, and now I am forced to travel frequently. I have medical issues, but I would prefer not to talk about them if possible. suggestions? —Anson
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. : While many scenarios could have led to this unfortunate disconnect, the bottom line is that somewhere in the exchanges between the interviewer, the manager, and yourself, expectations were lost. Miscommunication, whether accidental or intentional, erodes trust and damages the employer/employee relationship. To turn the situation around and improve communication, you should start a conversation with your manager and/or the Human Resources department as soon as possible.
You are not required to inform your employer of your state of health. However, if your condition rises to the level of a medical disability, you may need to disclose it. Your employer will then need to assess whether your condition meets the criteria for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If your medical condition is considered an eligible disability, your employer is required to provide you with reasonable accommodation, as long as it does not cause undue hardship to the employer. Reasonable accommodations may include virtual meetings with clients and customers, less frequent travel, or adjusting travel patterns.
If you are not comfortable with this approach or your reluctance to travel is more of a personal preference, it is reasonable to discuss this with your manager and HR. Don’t assume they understand your point of view. Let them know that you specifically requested only occasional travel and that you accepted the position knowing that travel would be limited. Be prepared to offer a solution. Describe the parameters of the frequency and duration of trips that you are willing to accept. Understanding your needs can help your employer develop a viable work plan.
If there are any reservations about the job requirements or conditions, it’s always best to ask and check. Additionally, it may be helpful to clarify ongoing expectations for communicating changes in travel requirements in the future. I hope you will achieve a satisfactory result.
I’m considering joining the National Guard and I’m worried that some of my benefits may be on hold. Are employers required to retain benefits, such as qualifying time accrual, for employees on military leave? —Clarissa
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: It’s great to hear that you plan to serve your country by joining the National Guard. Fortunately, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA) provides significant job protection and benefits when a person voluntarily or involuntarily leaves employment to perform military service in a n any branch of the military, the National Guard or the Reserves.
Continuing health benefits will depend on the length of your military leave. If the absence is less than 31 days, your employer is required to maintain your health insurance and pay his share of the premium. For absences of 30 days or more, your health benefits will end and you will have the option to continue coverage for up to 24 months or for the period of military service, whichever is shorter. You may have to contribute to the total cost of health benefits plus a 2% administration fee. When you return to your employer, your regular health benefits are immediately restored.
Protections for retirement benefits are also available. You are entitled to all accrued pension benefits. However, your employer is not required to continue contributing to your 401(k) while you are on military leave. Keep in mind that 401(k) contributions can be offset when you return from service and your employer is required to offset any catch-up contributions.
Paid leave, as well as vacation or sick leave, is also protected by USERRA. The ability to continue accumulating time off while on military leave is subject to your employer’s policy, so your paid time off accruals may be suspended while on leave. However, while the policy states that accruals will continue for any employee on leave, an employee on military leave is entitled to ongoing accruals.
Another key benefit is reintegration. Employers are required to reinstate employees in the same position with full seniority, status, salary, and benefits as if they had been actively working during their military service. Employment rights are acquired upon re-registration. In other words, if you do not want to be rehired when you return from military leave, your employer is not responsible for these obligations.
Hope this helps you make the best decision.