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Indiana Veteran's Preference Law

Published November, 2015

With Veterans Day upon us, businesses may be considering ways to benefit this community. The good news for those companies is that the state recently provided some additional incentives to hiring qualified vets. Indiana recently enacted a Veterans' Preference Law which became effective July 1, 2015. Private employers in Indiana are now allowed to implement a Veterans' preference employment policy providing preference to covered Veterans over other qualified applicants or employees when it comes to hiring, promotion, and/or retention during a reduction in workforce. The statute provides that a private employer, in Indiana, may give preference to a Veteran in hiring or promoting without violating Indiana state, and local, fair employment laws.

To qualify, the Veteran must have served in the military and received a release from the military on a basis other than a dishonorable discharge. This includes service for any of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Indiana Army National Guard and the Indiana Air National Guard.

For an employer to utilize this new law, the employer must implement a written policy and apply it uniformly to employment decisions involving hiring, promotion, and/or retention during any reduction in workforce. Further, the Indiana Statute dictates that the policy cannot violate any existing collectively bargained agreement, the National Labor Relations Act, nor the Uniform Service Employee Return to Work Act.

Open for debate is how the implementation of such a policy impacts federally protected statuses such as age, race, sex, national origin, religious beliefs, genetic information and the like. However, this new law is a State law, and the general rule is that State laws cannot override Federal laws. The law appears to be targeted towards small employers with 14 or fewer employees. Time will tell whether larger employers will be willing to run the risk of receiving Federal law based suits that claim the Indiana law is in conflict with Federal laws. Therefore, employers with fifteen or more employees may be substantially limited in any attempt to establish a policy based solely upon this Indiana law. 

- Published 11/13/2015, Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly editorial page

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