Legal Issues and Benefits to Employers for Employing Military Personnel

Hiring Military VeteransMichigan has seen a significant emphasis on hiring military veterans. The most recent example takes place at the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo on June 26-29, 2012 in Detroit at the Cobo Center and hosted put on by the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Employing Military Personnel - An overview of the the legal issues

Most employers have some understanding that those men and women who serve in the military are entitled to certain protections under both state and federal law when it comes to employment. Generally speaking, these protections are intended to provide not only equal treatment but also a measure of preferential treatment for U.S. veterans.

For example, under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301 et seq., an employer can't deny any person initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any other benefit of employment because of that person’s “membership, application for membership, performance of service, application for service, or obligation” to perform service in the uniformed services. 38 U.S.C. 4311(a).

Michigan law also imposes similar requirements. Specifically, no employer may discriminate against any officer or enlisted person of the military or naval forces of Michigan or the United States because of that person's membership within such force. MCL 32.271.

Additionally, Michigan employers cannot discharge “any person from employment because of being or performing his [or her] duty as an officer or enlisted man [or woman] of the military or naval forces of this state,” from hindering or preventing such person “from performing any military service or from attending any military encampment or place of drill or instruction, [that person] may be called upon to perform or attend by proper authority,” or from dissuading “any person from enlistment or accepting a commission in the national guard or naval militia by threat of injury to [that person] in respect to his [or her] employment, trade, or business in case of his [or her] enlistment or acceptance of a commission.” MCL 32.272.

Employing Military Personnel - The Practical Benefits to Employers

Going beyond the above legal issues, employing military veterans often makes a lot of sense for employers. For starters, there are the job skills that many veterans have acquired through their service and training that may immediately transfer to the workplace. 

But also consider the nature of most military work: risky, high pressure, and fast changing. Further, many veterans have been responsible for or part of extremely complex, technically precise operations. And a significant number of these veterans have been tested in extreme conditions - Afghanistan or Iraq - that essentially serve as a proving ground for management skills. Taken together, this experience and these assets often transfer seamlessly to business operations.

Research supports this conclusion. Consider a 2005 analysis by Korn/Ferry, which found: 

  1. Chief executives who served in the military make up over 8% of all CEOs in the S&P 500. This number is significantly higher than the average percentage of the entire U.S. male population who served in the military (3%).
  2. CEOs with military experience had longer tenures as CEO than those without. 
  3. The study found that companies led by military veterans as CEOs delivered higher average returns than the S&P 500 index over one, three, five, and ten-year horizons.

The executive summary of the Korn/Ferry Military/CEO Report (PDF) is available here. 

Conclusion

We all have ties - directly or indirectly - with someone who has or continues to serve this country. For me, my Grandfather, Dad, uncles, and other family and friends have served in the military, including in wars and conflicts (as if there is a difference). While employers must comply with certain legal obligations when it comes to employing military personnel, those obligations are often minor compared to the sacrifice military men and women have made. And those obligations are often overshadowed by the skills and experience that those serving in the military bring to the workplace. 

Follow this link for more information about the National Veteran Small Business Conference and Expo. And contact Jason Shinn for additional information about employment issues involving veterans or setting up or growing a veteran-owned business or a service disabled veteran business.