Milford Patrolman and National Guardsman now fighting for his military leave pay

Confusion about the law as mayor and borough attorney question entitlements for part-time employees

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  • Nathaniel Todd Beierle (Photo provided)

By Ginny Privitar

— Nathaniel Todd Beierle is in the Army National Guard. He served his country when he was deployed to Kuwait during Operation Enduring Freedom, and he served his community when he returned home at the end of 2013 and joined the Milford Borough Police Department as a part-time officer.

Beierle has worked for the department for four years and, since returning, is having trouble getting paid for military leave he believes he is owed. He says that, according to Pennsylvania law, he is entitled to receive pay for the time he spends on military leave for training, up to 15 days a year. He has two weeks of training plus additional days each year.

Mayor Sean Strub insists that this law applies only to full-time employees, and that part-time employees need to be paid proportionally. There is a profound disagreement about what Beierle as a part-timer is owed.

When he first joined the police force, Beierle and then-Mayor Bo Fean were unaware of any leave requirement. When former Police Chief Gary Williams brought it to their attention, Beierle said, the mayor made sure he was paid immediately for his 15-day military obligation in 2016.

“It’s embarrassing what they did to him," Fean said. “Patrolman Beierle put his life on the line as a soldier who spent time in a combat zone in Kuwait, during Operation Enduring Freedom to protect our country," he said. "He came back to the states and became a police officer with the Milford police. And once again, put his life on the line to protect the community. To deny this man what is rightfully due him as a veteran — I find it appalling and a slap in the face that the borough council and mayor would do this. If the state statute wasn’t presented to me, I still would have paid the man for the times he missed as a police officer because it was the right thing to do.”

Strub responded to the Courier by email: "I can't speak to a specific employee's situation without that employee giving permission for me to do so. What I can address is the Borough's policy concerning military leave compensation. To my knowledge, there is no outstanding claim concerning military leave."

He quoted borough policy (see sidebar) and further added, "There have been situations where a part-time employee received, in error, the maximum military leave benefits available to full-time employees. The Borough did not seek to recoup the additional payment made in error."

Part-time work complicates matterBeierle is asking for the military leave pay owed him for 2014 and 2015, plus leave he is owed for leave this year. He's asked Mayor Strub since spring of this year and things have dragged along. He said Strub told him the pay would have to be prorated, based on his hours, since he's part time. Beierle works between three to four shifts a week, and his schedule is set a month in advance.

Here's the rub: state law says part-time employees are not to be prorated (see sidebar).

Back in April, Beierle sent a written request to Mayor Strub and borough council formally requesting back pay for those 30 days.

He said his emails with Strub "started in late April when he told me they would be looking into the matter of continuing to provide me with military leave pay. In the beginning of June I received an email from the mayor saying the borough solicitor looked into it, and my pay was going to be prorated. At the end of June he requested I send him all the official orders I had from the military since working there, and told me they would look into paying me for the military leave days I did not receive in 2014 and 2015, but I never heard anything about it after that."

The Milford Borough solicitor, R. Anthony Waldron, told the Courier there were some outstanding questions about Beierle's entitlement.

"The mayor asked me in late February or March," Waldron said. "I reported back at a council meeting in the spring that he is entitled to his (military leave pay). He's a part-time officer, so that complicated it. How many hours did he work? And did he get paid for his regular pay?"

The mayor wasn't present when Waldron gave his report to the council. Months went by.

"In late October or early November, the mayor asked 'Did you ever find out?'" Waldron continued. "And he was going to figure out how much."

Waldron believes the mayor was not made aware of his report at the spring council meeting. No one contacted Waldron in the interim, but he said he exchanged information with Strub a week and a half ago.

Waldron said Beierle doesn't have an annual salary but gets paid by the hour. And there's some question about what he gets paid for National Guard service.

"The borough has to pay him the difference," Waldron said. "They have to figure out how much he missed, and how much he's owed."

Waldron said it's been about eight months since he's looked into issue, so he doesn't recall what the specific rules were for part-time employees.

"As for who suggested it should be prorated, I don’t know when that came up nor who raised that issue," said Waldron.

Beierle's difficulty continues. He said he had military training in the beginning of November.

"I put in for a military leave day and (Mayor Strub) denied it, so I don't get paid," he said.

Strub provided the Courier with an additional comment on Wednesday.

“Officer Beierle provided some of the required documentation to review his claim only yesterday,” he said. “He indicated he will have the rest of the required documentation to us shortly and then it will be reviewed.

“In addition, the Borough solicitor is reviewing the Borough’s obligations concerning whether military leave pay should be pro rata for part-time employees or whether part-time employees receive the same military leave pay as full-time employees.

“The governor’s directive in question states it is applicable to employees under the governor’s ‘jurisdiction.’ The question seems to be whether that includes employees of other governmental subdivisions or not or whether it is just the applicable federal and state statutes that apply.”

Editor's note: This article has been updated from the original.

Borough policy on military leave

Mayor Sean Strub provided the following regarding the borough’s military leave compensation policy:
Milford Borough is proud to provide, and is required by law to provide, military leave pay coverage for any service member with required military leave. If an employee is full-time, they are, by law, eligible to receive up to 15 days’ military leave per year. If an employee is part-time, they are to receive military leave pay commensurate with their pro rata hours (i.e., half-time = up to 7.5 days’ military leave; one-third time = up to 5 days military leave).
Reducing military leave pay by the amount compensated directly by the military.
Per the Borough’s employee handbook, the employee is required to submit copies of military pay vouchers and the military leave pay is to be reduced by that amount. However, the Borough has not enforced this requirement and I believe has not in recent years deducted the compensation received from the military, if any, from the military pay the Borough provides.
From the Borough’s employee manual:
Military — Employees returning from military duty as part of the reserves must submit copies of military pay vouchers to the Treasurer for the active duty period. Employees who are absent from work because of military duties will be compensated for the difference between the base pay they would have earned and the military allowances for a maximum of two (2) weeks in any one calendar year.

PA statues on military leave

Pennsylvania Statutes regarding military leave pay are as follows:
The following shall apply to paid military leaves of absence:
All officers and employees of the Commonwealth, its political subdivisions or their instrumentalities shall be entitled to paid military leaves of absence from their respective duties without loss of pay or efficiency rating, and without being required to use annual vacation time, as follows:
On all days during which they shall, as members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, be engaged in active State duty under section 508 (relating to active duty for emergency).
On all days not exceeding 15 consecutive or nonconsecutive days in any one year during which they shall, as members of the Pennsylvania National Guard or as members of any reserve component of the armed forces of the United States, be engaged in training or other military duty under orders authorized by Federal or State law.
From the Pennsylvania governor’s office:
Paid military leave is not prorated for part-time employees; part-time employees may use up to the full-time hourly equivalent of 15 work days.
Under commonwealth policy, eligible permanent and non-permanent employees may use up to 15 work days during each leave calendar year to cover an absence for military duty. Fifteen days is 112.5 hours for a 7.5 hour work schedule or 120 hours for an 8-hour work schedule.
Part-time employees may use up to the full-time hourly equivalent of 15 work days (112.5 or 120 hours).

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