by Joseph Miller III (Winter 2019)
Statutes providing veteran preference are entrenched in our nation’s civil service history. For example, the Civil Service Act of the early 1900s provided that persons who had served in the armed forces during the Civil War, and were honorably discharged, should be preferred for appointment to civil service positions provided that they possessed the proper qualifications for such positions.
Currently, there are several statutory provisions governing preference points. With many uses of these points, it is important to look at the different statuses that are afforded preference. Specifically, statutory requirements for preference in initial hiring differ greatly from the requirements attached to the promotional process.
Section 16.06(h) of the Fire Protection District Act (70 ILCS 705/16.06 (h)) outlines the possible preferences to be considered in initial hiring. These preferences include veteran preference, educational preference, experience preference, fire cadet preference, paramedic preference, and residency preference. These categories allow a pool of applicants to qualify for initial hiring points.
For a promotional exam, only veterans receive preference points. Because the Illinois Fire Protection District Act is silent on veteran preference points for promotional exams, we must look to the Illinois Municipal Code for guidance. Under the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners provisions in the Illinois Municipal Code, veterans “receive as a result of any promotional examination 7/10 of one point for each 6 months or fraction thereof of military or naval service not exceeding 30 months.” (65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-11). Thus, a veteran who has 30 months of service can earn up to 3.5 points. This differs from the veteran’s preference points for initial hire. For initial hire, a veteran receives five points.
There has been much debate as to how a Commission should apply the veteran’s preference points. Is a candidate restricted to only receiving points for each full six months of service or could a candidate have the points prorated for each day of military service? Recently, an arbitrator ruled that candidates are entitled to receive fractions of points proportionate to their time of military service. Consequently, a candidate who served for 9 months is entitled to a proportional amount of points even though the candidate falls short of the 12-month period specifically outlined in the statute. In this example, a candidate would be entitled to 1.05 points rather than just 0.7 points for six months of military service. In ruling, the arbitrator noted that the language in the statute provides for consideration of a “fraction thereof” of military service. (65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-11).
Another interesting facet of preference points is that the application of promotional preference points may be bargained in a collective bargaining agreement. It may be beneficial to have an agreement addressing preference points in order to clearly outline the District’s and Commission’s application of these preference points for upcoming promotional exams.