Hiring Preference, Reinstatement Rights, and Tuition Breaks for Veterans
First, the Kansas legislature enacted HB2154, which allows private employers to “adopt an employment policy that gives preference in hiring to a veteran, provided that the veteran meets the requirements of the vacant position.” To establish a veteran’s preference policy, employers must have a written policy and apply the policy consistently to all decisions regarding initial employment. The preference is only available to veterans who provide proof of honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions.
The bill also expands employment reinstatement rights to employees working in Kansas who return from being ordered to state active duty for the Kansas Army National Guard, Kansas Air National Guard, or other military forces. The employees must provide the employer adequate notice and be released from state active duty under honorable conditions to qualify for reinstatement. Previously, this reinstatement right did not apply to members of the National Guard who were employed outside of their affiliated state.
A third provision of the law provides that veterans, active duty members of the armed forces, and their spouses and children are considered residents for purposes of receiving in-state tuition at the public colleges and universities throughout Kansas.
Changes to Unemployment Insurance
The second change affecting Kansas employers involves the state’s unemployment system. Current law sets a weekly cap on unemployment benefits at 60% of the employee’s average weekly wages, with a maximum of $474 per week. The new law limits maximum weekly benefits at 55% of the employee’s wages, or $474, whichever is higher. The law also sets a new series of tax rates for businesses, which differs from the old system, in which the state annual set rates based on what it projected it would need to finance benefits for the coming year. State legislators who supported the bill argued that the changes will lessen the burden on businesses that have to pay into the unemployment insurance trust fund. The bill also alters the current merit-based hiring plan for state employees administering the unemployment insurance program and allows those administering the system to be involved in partisan politics within the state.
Changes to Concealed Carry Laws
Third, the Legislature amended Kansas law to allow individuals to carry a concealed firearm without a state-issued concealed carry license, so long as the individual is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm. It remains the law in Kansas that the carrying of a concealed weapon cannot be prohibited in any building unless the building posts the appropriate notice on its doors. Kansas is the fifth state in the country to allow its residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
Despite these changes in the concealed carry laws, employers in Kansas may still prohibit individuals from carrying concealed weapons while on the employer’s business premises or while otherwise working for the employer. You may not, however, prohibit your employees from storing their handguns in their private vehicles, even if the vehicle is parked on the employer’s premises.
Although this year's state legislation is not likely to require substantial changes in your company's employment practices, it is always good advice to confer with your employment counsel about whether any new legislation may have a more direct impact on your specific industry or business.