Memorial Day is upon us. While the idea of a three-day weekend, cookout, and pool party can be distracting, I encourage everyone to stop and remember those who have lost their lives in the service of our country. It’s also a perfect time for us to refresh ourselves on the legal obligations of federal contractors to employ veterans. “We honor the dead best by treating the living well.”
As a quick refresher, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected veteran status and requires affirmative measures to employ protected veterans. These requirements apply to any contractor with a federal contract worth $150,000 or more. Contractors that meet the monetary threshold and have at least 50 employees must also develop written affirmative action plans for each establishment. That includes allowing applicants and employees to self-identify as protected veterans, tracking employment activity, and documenting outreach and recruitment activities. All covered contractors are required to develop an annual hiring “benchmark,” a number that reflects the representation of veterans in the civilian labor force. Contractors are allowed to use the national benchmark. As Stephanie Underwood reported in April, the national hiring benchmark was recently reduced from 6.9 percent to 6.7 percent.
To offer another carrot in attempting to increase employment and retention of our veterans, the Department of Labor has recently issued a press release about its new HIRE Vets Medallion Program. This program is designed to recognize employers “who make hiring veterans a priority.” The awards will be presented around Veterans Day (November) to small, medium, and large employers.
So after you return to work from your long weekend, think about ways to increase your veteran workforce. Some ideas include listing job openings with a local veteran advocacy group, contacting a local veteran affairs office, having or participating in a job fair, contacting the transitional office at your nearest military base, chatting with your local colleges to see whether they have veteran representatives on campus, or asking veterans you know for ideas on how to post job opportunities.
Who knows? These Memorial Day brainstorming ideas may help you reach your company’s VEVRAA benchmark or put you on the short list for one of the new DOL awards!