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Gillibrand Announces Bills To Protect Veterans In The Workforce

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Pat Bradley/WAMC

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Friday unveiled two pieces of legislation meant to promote veteran employment in the public workforce, as well as protect the working rights of veterans who have come back from reserve duties.

The New York Democrat came to the American Legion Post 310 in Nyack with an announcement to coincide with Veterans Day.

“Our veterans have a deep and sincere commitment to public service. They have sacrificed an enormous amount for this country, and so have their families,” said Gillibrand. “We owe it to all of them to make sure that when they finish their duties and come home, they have access to a good job that pays well and if they are members of our military reserve component, their careers should never be harmed when they are called to put on the uniform and perform their military duties.”

The two proposed bills, the Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act of 2017 and the Justice for Service Members and Veterans Act of 2017, respectively, would ensure veterans be kept from underutilization within the public service workforce and that they not be susceptible to employment provisions that could affect their jobs upon returning from mandatory duty.

Gillibrand said there were a number of programs for veterans to obtain public service positions, relative to their existing skills, put in place by the Obama administration, but had not been signed into permanent law. The Empowering Federal Employment for Veterans Act would ensure the benefits to veterans from those programs would survive through the current and future administrations.

Although firing a member of the reserves for leaving work to perform their service is illegal, Gillibrand said she had learned employers using mandatory arbitration clauses had become a large issue by creating a loophole to deny reserve veterans raises, promotions, or placements they may had otherwise been given, if not for leaving to perform their duties by submitting them to biased, in-house arbitrators.

“If our bill passes it will say employers cannot put mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts with reservists, that they can’t do it anymore because it’s an employment practice that just saves companies money and it doesn’t protect the rights of our veterans and our service members,” said Gillibrand.

The legislation is brand new and as such, has just begun to gather cosponsors; however, Gillibrand said she believes both bills will garner significant support as they address largely bipartisan issues.

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