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New Jersey announces initiative to raise awareness of veterans’ rights; Missouri applauds employers hiring veterans

December 29th, 2011  |  Deborah Hammonds

In an effort to ensure that veterans and active military personnel are aware of their rights under the state’s antidiscrimination law, New Jersey has launched a statewide initiative to promote awareness of their rights under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). The initiative is intended to help those who have served in the military and – upon returning to civilian life – encountered discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere.

“This is one way of giving back to those who have given so much,” said New Jersey Attorney General Paula T. Dow. “Many people understand that discrimination based on gender, race or religion is illegal. Through this initiative, we intend to spread the word that discrimination against someone simply because he or she is a member of the military and has answered the call to duty – or might end up answering that call to serve – is just as illegal.”

“Men and women in the military devote themselves to protecting us,” said New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara. “The least we can do is ensure that they’re not treated unfairly in their civilian jobs, in their attempts to obtain housing for their families, or in their efforts to gain access to places of public accommodation. No one should be penalized for serving his or her country.”

Sashihara explained that one concern underlying the outreach effort is that discrimination against military personnel may go unreported due to a lack of awareness of the protections afforded by the law. For example, he noted, some military members may not realize that an employee cannot be fired, demoted or removed from promotional consideration simply because they are absent from work fulfilling their service obligations.

Working in conjunction with the American Legion of New Jersey and other stakeholders, the Division recently held the first of what will be a series of public forums for military veterans at the American Legion Post in Lawrenceville. In addition to the American Legion, other partners in the veterans’ outreach initiative include the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which can provide veterans with information and assistance pertaining to federal anti-discrimination law. For additional information, go to www.NJCivilRights.org.

Missouri employers applauded for hiring veterans. Last week Missouri Governor Jay Nixon awarded the Flag of Freedom award to two employers who hired military veterans under the Show-Me Heroes program in the past year. The Show-Me Heroes program is designed to connect military veterans with job opportunities when they return home from service. Employers participating in the program sign a pledge to ramp up efforts to reach out to, recruit and interview veterans for job openings at their businesses.

On December 22, Governor Nixon presented the Flag of Freedom award to Pacific, Missouri-based Graphic Packaging, which hired three military veterans in the past year under the program, and St. Charles, Missouri-based Zoltek Companies, Inc, which hired four military veterans in the past year under the program. Applauding the companies’ efforts, the Governor stated that he was proud to give the Flag of Freedom award to businesses that made hiring veterans a priority.

Employers who participate in the Show-Me Heroes program are listed prominently in an online database that highlights veteran-friendly employers across Missouri. The database includes contact information for the businesses and links to their websites. Employers receive a special certificate, signed by the Governor, and a decal to display at their location. The website also includes resources for job-seeking veterans, including links to employment openings in state government and a link to Missouri Career Source, a statewide one-stop-shop for Missourians looking for work.

To date, 1,702 Missouri employers have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge and 989 veterans have been hired. “Show-Me Heroes is a great way to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed services and help our veterans transition back to civilian life when they return home. Especially during this holiday season, I encourage more Missouri employers to join the ranks of those who have hired a veteran through the Show-Me Heroes program,” Governor Nixon said.

More information about the Show-Me Heroes program can be found on the state’s website, www.MO.gov.