Legislation provides differential pay, clarifies qualifications for leave of absence to serve, and specifies the duration of pay and benefits
StoryCounty employees who leave their jobs to help defend our country in the Uniformed Services have received clarity on the benefits they will continue to receive while in service. At its June 10 meeting, the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously adopted legislation granting qualified service personnel pay equity regardless of when they joined the Uniformed Services or are called into service.
“The families of our county employees called into active duty already face a number of challenges—one of those challenges shouldn’t be the loss of benefits they’ve rightfully earned,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett, the prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This legislation ensures that no matter when they were called, or what branch of the service they serve in, those benefits will be available to them and their families.”
“As a veteran, I understand firsthand the strains put on our troops and their families while they’re on deployment,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation to ensure service members no longer have to worry about being treated unfairly while they’re overseas in defense of our nation.
“If called to active duty our service members shouldn’t have to worry if they and their families will have continuing medical, dental, and life insurance benefits,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “We are asking enough of our service members and this is the very least we can do while they are actively serving our country.”
“As the son of a Korean War veteran, I am proud to sponsor this legislation to ensure that our service members are treated equally and fairly while they defend our nation,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski.
Under the King County Code, state law, the federal Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USSERRA) of 1994, and practices collective bargaining agreements, the County provides military leave, differential pay, leave accruals, and health benefits to its employees in military service. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, King County, through Executive Order, continued to offer them health and life insurance benefits and, additionally provided military leave differential pay to employees who were ordered to active duty – but only provided differential pay if employees were members of the reserves or any branch of the uniformed services as of September 11, 2001.
In 2011, the County Council adopted legislation codifying this policy and expanding it to included County employees who are members of the National Guard or Reserves. In the legislation adopted by the Council in 2011, the only County employees eligible for differential pay benefits were those who were in the Uniformed Services on or before September 11, 2001 or were activated before December 31, 2012.
The ordinance adopted by the Council on June 10 extends differential pay benefits to all County employees in the Uniformed Services.
The legislation also clarifies the definition of Uniformed Services to include those serving in the Armed Services and the Washington National Guard as well as those serving in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and its Reserves and, when appropriate, appointees to the National Disaster Medical System.
The adopted ordinance also sets the duration for the extended benefits: to either the end of the employee’s service in the Uniformed Services, or until the employee has exhausted his or her employment and reemployment rights under USERRA, which is generally up to five years, subject to certain exceptions provided under federal law.