Johnny C. Taylor Jr. | Special to USA TODAY
Johnny C. Taylor Jr. tackles your human resources questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society and author of “Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval.”
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
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Question: I was offered a new job without travel listed on the job description and never discussed in the interview. In my profession, travel is not unheard of so I expected occasional travel. I voiced my desire to one of the interviewers to be local with no interest in frequent travel. I left my job of 15 years for this position, where they are now pressuring me to travel frequently. I do have medical issues, but I would prefer not to discuss them if possible. Suggestions? – Anson
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: While any number of scenarios could have led to this unfortunate disconnect, certainly, somewhere within the exchanges between the interviewer, manager, and yourself, the expectations were lost. Miscommunication, whether accidental or intentional, erodes trust and damages the employer/employee relationship. To turn things around and improve communication, you should start a conversation with your manager and/or Human Resources as soon as possible.
While there is no requirement to disclose your medical condition, should your travel limitations rise to the level of medical disability, you may need to disclose it. Your employer will then need to assess if your condition meets the criteria for disability under The Americans with Disabilities Act. If your medical condition is determined to be a qualifying disability, they are obligated to provide you with a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations may include meeting with clients/customers virtually, less frequent travel, or adjusting modes of travel.
If you aren’t comfortable with this approach or this matter is more of personal preference, it is reasonable to discuss this with your manager and/or HR. Do not assume they understand your perspective. Let them know that you specifically requested limited occasional travel and accepted the position on this understanding. Be prepared to offer a solution. Outline the parameters for the frequency and duration of travel you are willing to accommodate. Understanding your needs can help them form a viable work plan.
If there are any reservations about job requirements or conditions, it is always best practice to ask and verify. Also, it can be helpful to clarify ongoing work expectations for communicating changes in travel requirements going forward. I hope this works well for you.
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Q: I am considering joining the National Guard Reserves. I am concerned some of my work benefits will be suspended. Are employers required to retain benefits for employees on military leave, like holding the accumulation of time for vesting qualifications? – Clarissa
Taylor: It’s great to hear that you are considering serving your country by joining the National Guard Reserves. Thankfully, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act offers significant job and benefits protection when you voluntarily or involuntarily leave a job to perform military service in any military branch, the National Guard or Reserves.
Retention of health benefits will depend on the length of your military leave. If an absence is less than 31 days, your employer is obligated to continue your health insurance and continue to pay their portion of it. For absences of 30 days or greater, your health benefits end with an option for you to continue coverage for up to 24 months or for the period of military service, whichever is shorter. You may be required to contribute the full cost of health benefits plus a 2% administration fee. When you return to your employer, your regular health benefits are immediately reinstated.
For employers with retirement benefits, there are protections available as well. You are entitled to all accrued pension benefits. However, your employer is not required to continue to make contributions to your 401(k) while you are on military leave. Keep in mind, contributions to 401(k)s can be made up when you return from service, and your employer is obligated to match any catch-up contributions.
Paid time off, vacation, or sick leave also have protection under uniformed services act as well. The ability to continue to accrue leave during military leave is subject to your employer’s company policy, so your paid time off accruals may be suspended during your leave. However, if the policy continues to accrue for any employee on a leave of absence, an employee on military leave is also entitled to continued accruals.
Another key benefit is reinstatement. Employers are required to reinstate employees into their same position with all seniority, status, pay and benefits as if they had been actively working during their military service. The vesting of employment rights occurs on reenrollment. In other words, if you do not want to be reemployed upon your return from military leave, your employer is not responsible for those obligations.
I hope this will assist you in making the best decision.