Veteran’s Day, a day to commemorate and honor those who have served in our nation’s military in the past and present, is November 11. It dates back to 1918 when the fighting ceased on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month during World War I. For this reason, November 11, 1918 is largely considered the end of the war “to end all wars.” It was in November 1919 that President Wilson declared November 11 as the first Armistice Day. In a speech he stated, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” It was generally celebrated with parades and cessation in business beginning at 11:00 am.
However, much has changed since November 1919. Through the hustle and bustle of modern-day business, it has caused much confusion about how employers should observe Veteran’s Day and what legal obligations they have. In Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon employers may be required to provide veterans a day off if they are normally scheduled.
For example, in Iowa employers are required to provide holiday time off for eligible veterans. It is up to the employer whether the time will be paid or unpaid. The employer must notify the employee whether the time will be paid or unpaid a minimum of 10 days prior to Veteran’s Day. An employer may also require a certificate of release from military duty to prove eligibility. It is also up to the employer to exercise discretion as to whether the employee’s absence would cause significant interference with public health or safety or would cause the employer to suffer significant economic or operational disruption. If the employer decides that they are not able to give the day off to any number of veterans, it is then their responsibility to deny the time off to the minimal number of employees needed to avoid significant economic or operational complications.
In Massachusetts, however, employers are required to provide Veteran’s Day off to any veteran that requests it regardless of whether the employer participates in a celebration. It is not required that the time off be paid but an employer can choose to do so.
In New Hampshire, a private employer must honor a veteran’s request for the day off as long as they request it per company policy for requesting time off. The day does not have to be paid time off unless the employee is salaried.
Lastly, in Oregon, an employer is required to give either paid or unpaid time off to veterans on Veteran’s Day. To qualify, an employee must have served at least 6 months, been honorably discharged, and requested the day off at least 3 weeks in advance. However, if they employer deems that the business would suffer significantly due to the employee’s absence, they are not required to comply with the law. The employer must then allow the employee to take a day off within one year of the holiday to commemorate their service.
While in other states providing time off is not mandatory, there are options for employers to commemorate the day and thank their employees for the sacrifice they made in defending their nation. Firstly, while it is not mandatory to provide the day off, it could be viewed as a considerate gesture to make it an official paid company holiday. If that is not an option for your business, you might consider sending an internal email thanking veterans and their families for their service. Catering a breakfast or lunch for the office could also be well received.