Deployed soldier kept civilian salary, thanks to boss

Nutter Corp. takes troop support to new level

No law required Jerry Nutter to pay an employee while he was deployed with his National Guard unit following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but he did it anyway.

The president of the Vancouver-based excavating firm kept Scott Browne on the payroll while he stood watch at airports with his activated National Guard unit. Nutter won an award for supporting Browne’s deployment, an award he was reluctant to receive, but one that recognizes he went beyond the basic requirements of employer troop support.

Federal laws enacted after World War II ensure National Guard members – at the very least – don’t lose their civilian jobs as a result of their service. During that war, business owners would simply replace men who left to fight in the war. To prevent that from happening again, Congress passed legislation requiring employers to rehire soldiers upon returning.

In 1994, Congress created the much more specific Uniform Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, requiring companies not only to welcome workers back after service, but also to promote them as their respective departments get promoted. While this helps, it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, as most deployed troops earn substantially less in uniform than out. Many service men and women return after serving abroad to financial chaos as a result of their absence.

Joel Scott is director of the Washington Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. He said companies like Nutter are the exception and not the rule. In April 2005, Nutter received the Patriot Award from the organization after Browne nominated the employer. And while Nutter deems such actions automatic, Scott says many do not.

"There are great companies but there are also a lot of louses out there," Scott said. "A lot of companies will comply with the laws but others will try not to comply."

Scott explained that some employers will try to get Guard members to take their annual two-week vacation during the annual two-week drill.

"That’s illegal," he said.

Still others in uniform have reported generous treatment from Nutter. Larry Porter is a supervisor with Nutter Corp., and also a sergeant with the Washington National Guard. He served in Iraq for 19 months with his National Guard unit in support of Operation Iraqi freedom. While he was deployed, he said the company looked after his family.

"Some of the senior members of (Nutter) kept in contact with my wife and family and made sure they were OK and that they had everything they needed," Porter said. "And when I got back, it was like I never left, and they gave me a brand-new (work) truck."

Company spokesperson Lisa Schmidt said Nutter is incredibly shy when it comes to recognition.

"He just does these things because he feels it’s right," she said. "He just believes in the principle of taking care of his people, but he doesn’t like to get recognition for it."

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