| 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.
Local rails get Guard to mission
Posted: 2015-07-02 01:09 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Across the state of Minnesota, more than 4,500 miles of active railroad track is used to move material, equipment and passengers - an extension of a system which started on May 22, 1857.
"Burlington Northern - Santa Fe Railway has a rich history supporting our military, reaching back to the Civil War. Today BNSF still works closely with the Department of Defense to coordinate movement of large equipment by rail, including to and from Camp Ripley, near Little Falls," said Amy McBeth, a spokesperson for Burlington Northern - Santa Fe.
In addition to three classifications of railway systems, the federal government identified a system of railroads for the purpose of moving government equipment to support the defense of the United States.
851st Vertical Engineer Company Raises the Roof
Posted: 2015-07-01 08:49 AM
RACINOVIC, Croatia -Members of the 851st Vertical Engineer Company, in conjunction with the Croatian Army and United States European Command, have partnered together to help the small village of Racinovic, Croatia.
The area was hit last year by disastrous flooding that destroyed many of the homes and farms. The closest dam broke, leaving the area under many feet of water and nearly everyone stranded and forced to evacuate.
The Office of Defense Cooperation and Humanitarian Civic Assistance Program helped provide labor, supplies and the people for communities in need all over the world. For this particular project, more than 30 Minnesota National Guardsmen have joined forces with their Croatian counterparts to rebuild the roof of the community center in less than three weeks.
Minnesota National Guard participates in Pride Festival
Posted: 2015-06-30 09:49 AM
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - In observance of LGBT Pride Month the Minnesota National Guard's 347th Regional Support Group hosted a booth at the Minneapolis Pride Festival in Loring Park, June 27-28, 2015, with volunteers from the 147th/247th Financial Management Support Detachments.
According to tcpride.org, "Twin Cities Pride is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Minnesota corporation that brings the greater LGBT community together to commemorate our diverse heritage, foster inclusion, educate and create awareness of issues, and celebrate achievements in equality."
For many onlookers at the festival, there was an element of surprise with the Minnesota National Guard's presence, but it didn't take long for the outpouring of appreciation and support from the community.
Large-scale exercises test 1/34th ABCT
Posted: 2015-06-29 08:42 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - In a simultaneous fashion while rolling up to the firing line, Soldiers man the crew-served and main gun weapon systems onboard their M1A1 Abrams tanks and identify targets at Camp Ripley Training Center on June 16, 2015 - the first drill of its kind for some Soldiers of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.
"While my gunner is firing on a target, my tank commander is engaging a truck using his .50 cal., and I see rounds flying from our wingman who's engaging a tank way out there," said Spc. Ted Coy, an Abrams driver with 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment. "Seeing all the tracer rounds cross while our platoon is firing at different targets at the same time is one of the coolest things I've ever seen."
The gunnery and maneuver exercise that Coy and his platoon conducted was one of the many integrated training events the 1st ABCT has been conducting during its Exportable Combat Training Capabilities exercises - a training period spanning from May 2015 to August 2015.