Maryland joins the growing list of states (23 states in the past two years) that have enacted laws giving preference in hiring to honorably discharged veterans. Private employers have been hesitant to favor veterans because of provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibit discrimination in hiring. An exception to the law, however, allows veterans preference if it is authorized under federal, state or local law.

On May 10, 2016, Governor Hogan signed the Hiring and Promotions Preferences — Veterans and Their Spouses Act giving Maryland employers the ability to grant a hiring and promotion preference to an eligible veteran, the spouse of an eligible veteran who has a service-connected disability, or the surviving spouse of a deceased eligible veteran without violating Maryland or local anti-discrimination laws.

The Act defines "eligible veteran" as a veteran of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces who has received an honorable discharge or a certificate of satisfactory completion of military service, including the National Guard and the military reserves. The Act does not define “service-connected disability, nor does it address whether Maryland employers may lawfully make inquiries about an applicant’s or employ’s veteran status at the pre- or post-offer stage.

The legislature’s intent in passing the law is to provide more employment opportunities to Maryland veterans, but the lack of clarity in language of the new law might thwart the intended effect.