Veteran Preference in the Private Sector

What it means and how your company can benefit from it


Veteran Preference laws have been a part of our history since the Revolutionary War, and were designed to favor those who sacrificed for our country by giving them a hiring preference when applying to jobs after they returned from war. At first glance, Veteran Preference may seem confusing and hard to understand. Many people falsely believe that Veteran Preference only applies to federal or civil jobs in the public sector, however, many states have adopted ‘private sector’ Veteran Preference laws. These laws allow privately held companies to show a preference for Veterans in their hiring practices.

Public Sector Veteran Preference Policy

The Veteran Preference laws basically specify that if you have two equally-qualified candidates for a job opening, with one candidate being a civilian and the other a Veteran, you could choose the Veteran over the civilian while still complying with Equal Opportunity laws.

Today, there are two types of Veteran Preference laws in place. The first, and most commonly known, was derived from the Veteran’s Preference Act of 1944, and pertains only to the hiring of Veterans in the public sector (federal and civil servant jobs).  This law authorizes preference for qualified Veterans hired for permanent and temporary positions, but may not apply towards promotions, transfers, or reassignments.

Private Sector Veteran Preference Policy

Secondly, and more recently, in response to helping combat the rising unemployment levels of Veterans, individual states have also passed laws that allow privately held companies to give Veterans preference in their hiring practices. These individual state laws vary depending on the state, but ultimately are designed to protect private employers from discrimination lawsuits when hiring Veterans.

As of January 31, 2017, 35 states have approved Private Employer Veteran Preference legislation.  Below is the list of the 15 states that do not currently have approved legislation.  Of these, the 5 states marked with an * have legislation pending.

The requirements for adopting a Veteran Preference Policy in your hiring practices vary slightly depending on the state, but most of the individual state laws have certain aspects that remain the same. For instance, most states require that the policy be made in writing. Most state laws also stipulate that the Veteran must be equally as qualified for the position as any other candidates being considered for the job. Many states also authorize Veteran Preference when making promotion decisions.  In almost all cases, the Veteran must have been honorably discharged from active duty service in order to be given preference.

Some states also allow employers to show preference for dependents of Veterans, such as spouses or adult children, especially if the Veteran has been categorized as disabled as a result of their time in the service. Local laws may change over time, so it’s best to verify the specifics of your state’s legislation and periodically update your company’s policies.

Creating Your Veteran Preference Policy

As you create your company’s Veteran Preference Policy, it is important to be aware of the specific regulation that applies to your state.  Once you have learned the specifics of your state, then it is up to the company to determine how best to implement the policy.  In most cases, employers use a variation of a point system to evaluate applicants across several hiring elements (such as experience, education, skills, training, and in response to questions regarding the position), and an additional point preference is afforded to Veterans.  This approach allows employers to objectively evaluate multiple candidates while still providing the Veteran a preference should all other elements be equal.

Once your Veteran Preference Policy has been developed, it should be discussed and shared with hiring managers and talent acquisition professionals.  In most cases, states do not require that the Veteran Preference Policy be made available to the public.

To help publicize your organization’s Veterans Preference Policy, consider adding a statement to your organization’s careers webpage or including it in individual job descriptions posted during hiring actions.  As an example, the information could be placed at the bottom of the job posting, and communicates to applicants that your company is a Veteran-friendly organization.

Contact us today at 888-571-2833 to learn more about your state’s Private Employer Veteran Preference Legislation.