| Business forum: Veterans armed with job protection
Minnesotans join the rest of the nation in honoring military veterans. The traditional Veterans Day fell on Sunday, Nov. 11, commemorating the end of World War I 94 years ago. But many official observances are Monday, including ceremonial events at various cemeteries, Fort Snelling and other sites around the country.
Minnesota honors those who have served in the military in the workplace, too, including legislation adopted earlier this year that expands job opportunities for veterans and their spouses.
Laws aimed at giving veterans more job-related rights date to the late 19th century in Minnesota, including a measure that provides greater job protection in the public sector than non-veterans receive. Other long-standing laws give veterans and their spouses advantages in hiring and for some promotions within the public sector.
The most recent addition to Minnesota laws favoring veterans was passed by the Legislature this year and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton. The measure extends the rights of veterans from the public sector to private enterprise. Under the law, private-sector employers are authorized, but not obligated, to grant "preference" to hiring and promoting veterans. This also extends to spouses of military veterans who are permanently and totally disabled due to a service-related injury and to the surviving spouses of deceased veterans.
The law does not specify what type of "preference" may be granted, how it may be bestowed, or any other details. Rather, it simply permits employers to give such preferences to veterans and, if disabled or deceased, to their spouses.
Pre-existing law in Minnesota prohibits discrimination in employment against individuals because of their military status. The new law, conversely, allows them to be given preferential treatment and, to dispel any doubt, expressly states that granting such favoritism does not constitute a violation of any state or local anti-discrimination laws.
That exemption, however, does not assure avoidance of litigation. A non-veteran might still find some ways to assert discrimination because of preferential treatment given to veterans.
Further, veterans themselves may raise various charges that they are being treated less favorably than other veterans with different or longer military service records.
These disputes may be avoided if company management adopts written policies for according preference to veterans in hiring or promotion. Failure to do so could leave firms vulnerable to charges of impropriety in positioning veterans more favorably than non-veterans or even in preferring some veterans over others.
The private-sector preference permitted by the new Minnesota law complements other favorable considerations that veterans receive in the state. One law allows veterans and their spouses preferential treatment in hiring in the public sector. If competitive examinations are given for hiring, veterans and their spouses are required to be given 5 additional points on a 100-point scale, while disabled veterans can obtain up to 10 points. On first-time promotional exams, disabled veterans are given 5 points.
And preferential treatment does not exist only in hiring. The venerable Veterans' Preference Act, which has been on the state's books since 1907, entitles those who performed military service for more than six months and have been honorably discharged the right to challenge any dismissal -- and even some significant demotions -- in most public-sector jobs by requiring the employer to prove that the action is taken against them because of "incompetency or misconduct." This is a high standard that gives veterans much more protection than their colleagues, who generally work on an at-will basis and can be demoted, disciplined or even discharged without proof of poor performance or any misbehavior.
The Veterans' Preference law primarily covers employees of county, municipal and other local branches of government, with some exceptions for management-level jobs. The law does not extend to employees of the state or the University of Minnesota.
Still, the Veterans' Preference measure is a potent one. Not only does it limit disciplinary action, especially termination of veterans, but it also allows them to remain on the payroll during the time that they are contesting any discharge.
Another law, also only applicable to public-sector employees, grants veterans a leave of absence for up to 15 days a year for military service.
These Minnesota measures exist side by side with some workplace protection laws at the federal level. The most notable is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, commonly known as USEERA, which prohibits retaliation against an individual because of past, present or prospective military service. It is most often invoked when those in the military are denied their jobs, or given inferior ones, upon return from the service. Some may view these preferential measures as being unfair to those who are not veterans. Those who have worn the uniform may feel that they are entitled to even more advantages in the workplace. But they are definitely armed with an arsenal of laws that can protect their rights in the workplace.
US State Partnership Programme improves regional security
Posted: 2015-03-30 10:37 AM
The US has been aiding countries in the region to improve their defence and military capacities as well as their relations with the NATO. The main tool for this goal is the US State Partnership Programme, in which the US National Guard partners with states from the former Soviet Bloc.
"In the process of upgrading the capabilities of the armed forces of small, transitional countries, co-operation with developed, democratic countries and their military structures [is necessary]," Zvonimir Mahecic, an external expert at the Institute for International Relations in Zagreb and a retired colonel from the Croatian military, told SETimes. "Through joint activities, militaries as well as civilians of small countries are getting a chance to learn from the experiences of military structures that had passed through significant development and adjustment to the needs of combat and non-combat operations of the 21st century. This kind of co-operation represents a great chance to transfer knowledge and achieve implementation. One example of this type of co-operation is between the Minnesota National Guard and Croatian."
Gold Star Fathers Share Story of Love, Service and Sacrifice
Posted: 2015-03-25 08:45 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - "A Gold Star family member is a person who has lost a loved one who was serving our nation in the armed forces regardless of the circumstances of the death," said Survivor Outreach Services provider Amy Garber.
Bill Smith, father of Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, and Richard Cauley, father of Spc. George Cauley, two Gold Star dads, recently spoke about their sons and what it means to be a Gold Star father.
"Everyone's greatest fear is the thought they'll say something awkward [to a Gold Star family member]. We want to talk about our loved ones. The greatest sadness would be that no one would remember," said Bill Smith.
334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Celebrates Women's History
Posted: 2015-03-22 01:39 PM
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Soldiers of Headquarters, Headquarters Company of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion took time away from training to celebrate Women's History Month with a look at the history of women in the Minnesota National Guard from someone who lived it.
Invited to speak at the event was Geraldine Longfellow. In 2008, Longfellow retired from the Minnesota Army National Guard at the rank of lieutenant colonel. She has since been brevetted to the rank of colonel.
Camp Ripley Guardsman Recognized as "Big Brother of the Year"
Posted: 2015-03-18 03:40 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - For many Service members of the Minnesota National Guard, dedication to the community is as high of a priority as any other mission.
"We feel it is our duty, in our own communities, to ensure that our friends and neighbors are taken care of," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Ross.
Ross, who has been an active member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota for over three years, as well as a member of the Minnesota National Guard, was recently recognized by the agency as "Big Brother of the Year" for the State of Minnesota.