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Originally published Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 8:56 PM

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New law allows hiring preference for vets

Military veterans could get a leg up on those competing against them for the same job under a bill Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Wednesday.

Seattle Times Olympia bureau

quotes This is directed to the posters that are concerned about not hiring the best prospects... Read more
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quotes Gregoire should get focused on the state budget. Read more

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OLYMPIA — Military veterans could get an advantage over those competing against them for the same job under a bill Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Wednesday.

The legislation, HB 1432, allows private employers to voluntarily give a preference to hiring veterans and widows or widowers of veterans without violating federal and state anti-discrimination statutes. Private companies also could give employment preference to spouses of certain honorably discharged veterans who became permanently disabled during their service.

Currently, public employers already give a preference to veterans.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives with a 94-4 vote and was unanimously approved by the Senate earlier this month.

"We wanted to make sure we had a way to honor our women and men in uniform upon returning from overseas and this really is a pathway for their reintegration back into society through employment," said Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, the bill's lead sponsor.

Rodne, a Marine Corps veteran, said he introduced the bill after a Seattle attorney and a nonprofit aimed at expanding employment opportunities for military veterans approached him about the issue. Washington law prohibits an employer from discriminating against job applicants due to military status.

The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 also bars an employer from discriminating against any individual based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The act prevents employers from giving preference to military veterans because often they are predominantly male, said David Black, the attorney from Jackson Lewis, who approached Rodne about the new law.

Black noted, though, that a subsection in the civil-rights act allows state and local governments to pass laws creating preference for veterans without violating the federal law.

Marjorie James, the president of Hire America's Heroes, said that veterans are at a disadvantage when they apply for a job in the private sector because they often don't have as much experience in certain industries as some other applicants.

The group, based in Redmond, works with corporations to help transitioning military-service members, veterans and their family members find corporate jobs.

Queenie Wong: 360-236-8267 or qwong@seattletimes.com

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