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Castelli Authors, Passes Vet Protection Bill

When Army Sergeants Andy Moreno and Alvin Taylor were laid off by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) last year during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively, Assemblyman Robert J. Castelli (R, C – Goldens Bridge), who represents that 89 Assembly District, which includes Lewisboro and Pound Rige, wrote in a letter to MTA Chairman Jay Walder, “if common decency won’t protect our troops from getting laid off, then I will draft and fight to pass legislation to prevent this type of travesty from occurring in the future.”

The two were eventually reinstated to their positions, but Castelli, a ranking member of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, went ahead with the legislation any way.

On Tuesday, Castelli announced the passage of a bill that relates to prohibiting government agencies from cutting positions of employees absent on military duty.

“It is beyond comprehension how the MTA could even consider laying off military reservists called to serve our nation during a time of war,” he said. “I found the MTA’s actions to be reprehensible.”

Under Castelli’s bill, which mandates compliance with the Federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, no public employer shall abolish a position occupied by a person absent on military duty, solely based upon the fact that the position or positions are currently filled by a persons engaged in military duty. If the position is abolished prior to the conclusion of the employee’s military duty, his or her name shall be placed immediately on a preferred hiring list.

The bill also adds a new anti-discrimination clause to the civil service law, which prohibits against discrimination against public employees serving in the armed forces and states that no public employer shall deny employment, re-employment, or any benefit of employment to any person or employee based on the prospective, current or past enlistment, appointment or commission with the Armed Forces of the United States.

Richie Calbo, Past County Commander of the Westchester County American Legion and the Master-at-Arms for the American Legion Department of New York, was involved in the drafting of the bill.

“I am very pleased that we were able to get this bill going,” he said “ It protects any service member, wherever they may be when they leave a job to serve their nation, from the unfortunate circumstances that we saw last year.”

In legislative memoranda, Ned Foote, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, New York State Council, noted that the bill “would correct a deficiency in federal law by ensuring that government employees who serve their country in the military retain their job security.”

Additionally, in a memorandum in support, Thomas R. Willdigg, President of the New York State Association of PBAs, an organization comprising more than 50 member unions representing more than 45,000 police officers in New York State, strongly supported the legislation.

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