Brent Hinders

Hopkins & Huebner

Des Moines Office

Veterans Employment: Laws benefit, protect Veterans

The federal and state government have passed legislation either supplementing current laws providing employment benefits and protections to military service members or introducing new and independent benefits and protections.

Iowa law grants a veteran’s preference to prospective and current public sector employees. A “veteran,” under Iowa law, is an honorably discharged armed forces member who served during the Vietnam, Panama, Granada or Lebanon occupations, or the Persian Gulf conflict from Aug. 2, 1990 through the present. The veteran is not required to have served in combat, but simply had to have been in the military during that time. Finally, honorably discharged members of the military reserves and the Iowa National Guard who have served at least 20 years or members of the military reserves who completed a minimum of 90 days of federal active duty are also covered veterans.

Veteran status gives an applicant for public employment a preference over other equally qualified applicants. A public employer must include “an inquiry into the applicant’s military service” on the application and provide public notice of the application deadline. If the veteran is not hired, the employer must notify the veteran with a certified letter and file a copy of the letter with the clerk. Furthermore, veterans can only be removed from public employment upon a showing of “misconduct” or “incompetency” at a pre-termination hearing of which the veteran is entitled to notice and written charges. However, a public employer can “abolish” a position held by a veteran if the employer is acting in “good faith” and does so due to financial necessity or legitimate business reasons.

The newly-signed “Home Base Iowa Act” provides that “a private employer may grant preference in hiring and promotion” to a veteran or the spouse of a disabled or deceased veteran.

Federal law also provides employment protections to service members. Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA), a service member who is absent from employment due to military service is entitled to reemployment upon returning from service. Specifically, the service member is entitled to the position, pay, seniority and accompanying benefits the service member would have achieved had there been no interruption in employment.  Amendments to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provide employment protections to military family members for “qualifying exigency leave” and “military caregiver leave.”  “Exigency leave” grants leave to the immediate family of service members, allowing families to address common issues resulting from a service member’s deployment to a foreign country. “Military caregiver leave” grants leave to families of service members who were injured or disabled as a result of their military service.

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