Violators Beware: A Look at the Veterans’ Preference Law

From the Desk of John M. Kreutzer: Is a public employer required to apply a preference to a veteran or disabled veteran at each stage of the hiring or promotion process? When a violation of the veterans’ preference law is found can the violator be on the hook for emotional distress damages? Read on to see how the Oregon Court of Appeals recently answered these questions.

Claims Pointer: The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, concluding that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office violated the veterans’ preference law by having an insufficient preference method for veterans and disabled veterans, and, therefore, the Bureau was correct in ordering the Sheriff’s office to devise a method to apply the preference at each applicable stage of a multistage hiring or promotion process. The court also affirmed a $50,000 award to the disabled veteran for emotional distress damages.

Employer Takeaway: Oregon private employers are not implicated by this decision, but are well reminded that BOLI can award damages, including emotional distress damages. Washington employers should be aware that pursuant to RCW 73.16.110, private employers can extend Verterans’ Preference to their employees without running afoul of Civil Rights actions. It is in their best interests to apply their Veterans’ Preference policy consistently.

Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office v. Edwards, et al., 277 Or App 540 (April 13, 2016).

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) posted an internal job announcement seeking applicants for promotion from a sergeant to a lieutenant position. Three sergeants applied, including Sergeant Edwards, a disabled veteran. All three were accepted as candidates. Under Oregon’s veterans’ preference law, public employers must grant a preference to veterans when hiring for certain types of civil service positions. Edwards did not receive the promotion.

Edwards filed a complaint against MCSO with the Bureau of...

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