| 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.
34th Combat Aviation Brigade soldiers coming home
Posted: 2015-05-01 09:26 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 24, 2015
ST. PAUL, Minn.-
The second half of the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade's Headquarters Company and 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion are returning home from a year-long deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Kuwait and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq on Saturday morning.
More than 110 Soldiers will be bussed to the Army Aviation Support Facility #1, 206 Airport Road, St. Paul, Minn., at approximately 8:45 a.m. on Saturday.
These Minnesota units conducted aviation operations and security cooperation activities at the direction of U.S. Central Command. Their mission expanded to support Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort to combat emerging militant groups, in September.
Minnesota National Guard officer, enlisted meet for annual conferences
Posted: 2015-05-01 08:01 AM
The 110th General National Guard Association of Minnesota Conference had nearly 300 officers, warrant officers and their guests in attendance. Events included a Friday alumni dinner, a business meeting and a formal banquet in Minnetonka last weekend.
Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, National Guard Association president, brought association news from Washington D.C. to the group. He said the association is working to educate elected officials of the problems of a budget that would reduce end strength by 8,200 for the Army National Guard. Their focus is on structure, end strength and full time manning.
"We'll lose 1,726 man days, 1,100 technicians and 600 AGRs," said Hargett.
STARBASE Minnesota celebrates 50,000 students served
Posted: 2015-04-30 08:11 AM
ST. PAUL, Minn. - 50,000 students have walked through STARBASE Minnesota's doors since it opened in 1993. STARBASE continues to educate and inspire youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through exciting, innovative programming at the Minnesota National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing.
Muhamed "Robo Knight" Come, a 4th grader at Frost Lake Elementary school, became the 50,000th STARBASE student to graduate from the program on April 28, 2015. He and his 80 classmates were surprised with virtual fireworks and balloons falling from the ceiling marking this milestone.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Wong, the volunteer guest speaker at the event heard from students as they described how they designed, 3D printed and tested their rocket prototypes and learned how to program rovers as they planned their journey to Mars. In return, Lt. Col. Wong shared how he uses STEM in the Minnesota Air National Guard and how important education is to achieving goals.
Minnesota National Guard assists with avian influenza response
Posted: 2015-04-29 12:40 PM
The Minnesota State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) called on the National Guard to deliver water for use in the disease containment effort as part of the state's response to avian influenza.
More than 40 National Guard soldiers and 15 military water trucks from the Willmar-based 682nd Engineer Battalion and the Brooklyn Park-based Company A, 134th Brigade Support Battalion are being used in the mission. Large amounts of water are needed in foaming systems being used as part of the depopulation efforts, to control further spread of avian influenza virus.
"Any time that we can fill a gap by providing services like this, it is a positive thing for the guard," said Capt. Adam Riedel, the command and control officer-in-charge for this activation.