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Veterans' Preference
Oregon law requires that public employers grant certain preferences in the hiring and promotion of veterans and disabled veterans. ORS 408.225 to 408.237. These basic provisions include the right to an interview in most cases and a selection procedure that provides a preference to qualified veterans at each stage of the hiring process. Oregon law also permits but does not require private, non-public employers to give a preference to veterans in the hiring and promotion of employees. ORS 408.497. 

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to employers in applying these preferences. The information in this document is not a comprehensive summary of the veterans preference laws, but addresses common questions and issues pertaining to the application of certain provisions of the law. Employers should review the veterans preference laws and administrative rules, and consult with legal counsel regarding any questions prior to taking action that may invoke veterans’ rights or employer responsibilities under the law.
Q. When are public employers required to interview veteran applicants for civil service positions?
A. When an interview is a component of the selection process for a “civil service position,” ORS 408.237 requires public employers to interview each and every veteran covered by the law who submits application materials that the employer determines show sufficient evidence that the veteran meets the minimum qualifications and all special qualifications of the position, including all specified skills or attributes that are either requested or required by the employer.1

Veteran applicants may demonstrate that they meet the minimum and special qualifications of a position and have obtained any skills or attributes requested or required by the employer through education, work experience (including military), relevant life experience, or by showing that they have “transferable skills” i.e., skills obtained through military education or experience that substantially relate, directly or indirectly, to the civil service position for which the veteran is applying.2

Employers must inform employment applicants of the minimum and special qualifications required for the position, as well as all skills and attributes requested or required, in the initial recruitment communication, and may not consider any unpublished qualifications, skills or attributes in determining whether or not to interview a veteran applicant.
Veteran applicants may be ranked in comparison to other applicants at this stage, but they must be interviewed if they meet the minimum qualifications and all special qualifications of the position, including all specified skills or attributes requested or required by the employer, regardless of their ranking in comparison to the other applicants.

The requirement to interview all veteran applicants for a position does not apply when a public employer selects applicants for employment from a pre-established eligibility list of pre-qualified candidates who have been ranked through a test or series of tests, and who will be considered and hired for the position in ranked order. A “test or series of tests” for this purpose does not include an application form or scoring of the information presented in an application form. The type of eligibility lists not subject to the requirement to interview all veteran candidates are those most commonly used by public employers that fill vacant positions on a regular and recurring “as needed” basis from a pre¬existing list of pre-qualified applicants. Examples include law enforcement and fire protection applicants who have been ranked and placed on an eligibility list based on their test scores.
Q. How and when do employment preferences apply to veterans and disabled veterans who qualify for a position?

A. ORS 408.230 requires public employers to grant specified preferences to veterans and disabled veterans who apply for vacant civil service positions or promotions to civil service positions if the veteran:
  • Successfully completes an initial screening, application examination or civil service test for the position with a passing score; and
  • Meets the minimum qualifications and all special qualifications for the position (including all additional specified skills or attributes that are either requested or required by the employer)

Preferences are required to be granted to qualified veterans and disabled veterans at each stage of the application process as follows:
  • A veteran who has successfully completed an initial screening, application or civil service test for a position with a passing score must be granted five additional preference points. An additional 10 preference points must be added to a disabled veteran’s score (presumably on a 100-point scale).
  • For any application examination given following the initial application screening that results in a score, the employer must add five preference points to a veteran’s score, and 10 preference points to a disabled veteran’s score (presumably on a 100-point scale).
  • For an application examination that consists of an interview; an evaluation of the veteran’s performance, experience or training; a supervisor’s rating; or any other method of ranking an applicant that does not result in a score, the employer must give a preference to a veteran or disabled veteran. An employer that uses any of these types of unscored application examinations is required to devise and apply methods by which the employer gives special consideration in the employer’s hiring decision to veterans and disabled veterans. This unscored method must clearly give a preference at every stage of the hiring or promotions process. One such method may be to use tiers or bands with which to rank applicants, showing that veteran applicants are moved up one tier or band and disabled applicants are moved up two tiers or bands. A recent Oregon Supreme Court decision highlights the dangers of ad hoc, poorly articulated methods that do not use a score. Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office v. Edwards, 399 P.3d 969, 361 Or. 761 (2017)

A public employer must appoint a qualified veteran or disabled veteran to a vacant civil service position if the results of the veteran’s or disabled veteran’s application examination, when combined with the veteran’s or disabled veteran’s preference, are equal to or higher than the results of an application examination for an applicant who is not a veteran or disabled veteran. However, the employer may base a decision not to appoint the veteran solely on the veteran’s merits or qualifications with respect to the position.

Q. We are not a public employer, but we are patriotic and value the service and sacrifices of our veterans and their families.  May we provide a preference to veterans even if the law does not require us to do so?

A. Possibly.  Honoring veterans and military families is commendable, and that is probably what motivated the legislature to enact ORS 408.497, which provides that private-sector employers MAY give preference in the hiring and promotion of employees to those in uniformed service and veterans. 

That said, the broader context of protected class discrimination and disparate impact should also be accounted for in establishing a veterans’ preference in hiring.  For example, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, women represent just 16 percent of the enlisted forces and 18 percent of the officer corps. Since veterans served in the past, it is instructive to note that in 1973 those percentages were significantly different: just two percent and eight percent respectively.  Therefore, based on this example, your preference approach could lead to disparate impact discrimination against women if not carefully considered.  This is just one example.  

Since private-sector employers are not required to grant a preference to veterans, the law does not necessarily give cover to those who choose to do so. If an employer does not have a demographically diverse workforce, giving a boost-up to veterans, most of whom are men, could result in an unintentional disadvantage to women. Including a preference in your hiring policy for the spouse of a disabled veteran or the widow of a veteran (two other options permitted by the law) may help to balance those scales, but ultimately, employers probably ought to discuss their particular situation with legal counsel before rolling out a veterans preference policy. 

[1] Scroll to ORS 408.225 from here and visit OAR 839-006-0440​ for relevant definitions. [Back]
[2] Under the statute, a public employer may consult with the Oregon Military Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine whether certain military education or experience produces a transferable skill. [Back]

July 2019

Nothing on this website is intended as legal advice.  Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them, and not intended to apply to any other situations.  This communication is not an agency order.  If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.  We attempt to update the information on this website as soon as practicable following changes or developments in the laws and rules affecting Oregon employers, but we make no warranties or representations, express or implied, about whether the information provided is current.  We urge you to check the applicable statutes and administrative rules yourself and to consult with legal counsel prior to taking action that may invoke employee rights or employer responsibilities or omitting to act when required by law to act.