Honoring Veterans by Giving Them the Day Off

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears Iowa will be the only state honoring all veterans this Veterans Day — Nov. 11, 2010 — by requiring every one of its employers, public and private, to grant veterans holiday time off if they would otherwise be required to work that day.

Iowa’s Veterans Day law, House File 2197, was signed by Gov. Chet Culver on April 27 and a scan of the Internet and a call to the Veteran’s Administration indicates it’s the only of its kind so far. Under it, the veteran must provide the employer with at least one month’s notice of the intent to take the day off, along with a federally certified proof of honorable release or discharge from active duty.

Culver did another nice thing for Iowan vets and their families by signing House File 2110, the “trailing spouses” bill, on March 16, allowing military spouses to receive unemployment benefits if they have to leave a job to follow a spouse on military assignment. Both bills seem only fair to me, considering what vets have done for us. Especially the former.

I’d even be in favor of making Veterans Day our first true national holiday. I’d be for everyone taking it off, like Memorial Day and Fourth of July — especially if it would inspire us all to do something nice for a vet that day, or at least impress upon our children the importance of their sacrifice.

In my Veterans Day web sojourn, I came across this interesting blog post by Daniel Schwartz, a Connecticut attorney, from a couple years ago. He poses the question: Should more employers and all public schools be closed on Veterans Day? Federal and state laws grant all federal and state workers days off on legal holidays, such as Veterans Day, but not private-sector workers. Legal holidays simply dictate what the government is going to do; “how the rest of the country (i.e., private-sector employers) chooses to follow the holiday is up to them,” he writes. And to date, unlike other countries, the United States has no national holiday.

I don’t know, it just seems wrong to me — especially in a time of war — that a veteran has to clock in on his or her day of honor and a state or federal worker gets to lounge on a couch with popcorn and beer.

Even if your state’s governor isn’t quite ready to go Culver’s route, it’s probably still worth bringing up with your CEO and board of directors. Just a thought.

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