Bill aims to allow private employers to give veterans a hiring preference

House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, watches a floor session Tuesday, May 31, 2016 in Juneau, Alaska. Members of the minority broke a stalemate on the state's operating budget and joined the majority in a vote to draw from the state's savings to solve budget issues. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)
Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, introduced a bill that would allow private employers to have a hiring preference for veterans. This photograph was from May 2016. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

When business owners seek to advertise that they want to hire military veterans, they face an obstacle. People who aren’t veterans can sue them for discrimination.

State Rep. Chris Tuck wants to change that.

The Anchorage Democrat has introduced House Bill 2, which would allow private employers to openly use a veteran hire preference if they choose to.

“Employers know that when military people are discharged, they come with some great skills and abilities through their training,” Tuck said.

The federal Civil Rights Act provides that states can allow public and private employers to legally prefer to hire veterans.

While all 50 states allow the veterans preference for public employers, Alaska is one of 13 states that hasn’t allowed it for private employers.

Tuck said business owners’ concerns are valid.

“Employers have been brought to trial because they had a hiring preference for a veteran, other than another civilian,” Tuck said.

Russ Ball owns ACB Solutions, an Anchorage small business that provides computer repair and other computer services statewide.

He said he’s worried about a discrimination suit from an unsuccessful applicant. Ball supports Tuck’s bill.

“We find the military, or the veterans, to be good workers, to be skilled workers,” Ball said. “We also see it as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for their service.”

The House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee discussed the bill on Tuesday. Tuck, the committee chairman, said he would bring the legislation up again in a future meeting.

Officials with the U.S. Defense Department and the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs support the bill.

One in 10 Alaskans is a veteran, the highest per-capita share of any state’s population.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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