Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thank a Vet--Give Them a Job

They served their country, and now businesses want to return the favor. Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced one of the largest veterans' preference initiatives of all time. Starting Memorial Day, 2013, the mega-retailer is promising to give a job to any veteran who has been honorably discharged within the preceding 12 months. The initiative is expected to employ over 100,000 veterans in the next five years.

Employing veterans is not only good for the veterans; it can also be good for business. It can provide financial rewards through various tax credits, such as the Returning Heroes Tax Credit (up to $5,600 per veteran hired) and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit (up to $9,600 per veteran with service-related disabilities). It generates goodwill in the community and can form the basis of positive public relations. Additionally, such initiatives can bring in highly disciplined and dedicated workers who have leadership and teamwork skills and are able to learn quickly and perform well  under pressure.

While employers of members of the uniformed services probably know that these individuals are protected by the same employment laws as other employees--such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act-- employers might not know about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA prohibits employer discrimination against past or present members of the uniformed services.  In addition, under USERRA, members of the uniformed services must be granted unpaid leave for up to five years for active duty and are generally entitled to reinstatement in their previous position if they reapply promptly after finishing active duty.  Employers of past and present members of the uniformed services should ensure that their handbooks and policies account for USERRA’s provisions.

Along with Wal-Mart’s public push to employ more veterans, small businesses around the country are seeking to hire more veterans.  With the winding down of the war in Afghanistan, more and more veterans will be returning home in the coming months, so it is likely that more  employers will be adopting veterans’ preference initiatives.  For this reason, all eyes will be on Wal-Mart in the next year as they implement their large-scale program.

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