Collective Bargaining Agreement Does Not Trump State Veterans’ Preference Law

Matthew Stammeyer is a senior trooper with the Iowa State Patrol. Stammeyer has 20 years of service in the Iowa National Guard, and is a “veteran” for purposes of Iowa state law.

In 2003, Stammeyer twice applied to transfer to the Division of Narcotics Enforcement, but was turned down both times. Stammeyer wrote the Division asking for the specific reasons why he was not selected. When the Division failed to respond, he filed a lawsuit under Iowa’s veterans’ preference law.

A section of the Iowa Code entitles veterans “to preference in appointment and employment in every public department over other applicants of no greater qualifications.” The State of Iowa responded that job assignments were generally controlled under a collective bargaining agreement between the labor organization representing Stammeyer and the State, and that the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement trumped the veterans’ preference law.

The Iowa Court of Appeals sided with Stammeyer. The Court found that neither the general state collective bargaining law nor the collective bargaining agreement specifically addressed preferences for veterans. The Court observed that the general bargaining law and the contract did not “contain provisions containing procedures specifically for resolving conflicts concerning the application or enforcement of preferences for veterans. Although, under the statute, the agreement could have resolved how any preferences applied in transfer procedures, it does not.”

For these reasons, the Court found that the collective bargaining agreement did not bar the application of Iowa’s veterans’ preference law to Stammeyer’s application. The Court remanded the case to a trial court for an assessment of the merits of Stammeyer’s case.

Stammeyer v. Division of Narcotics Enforcement of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, 2006 WL 133336 (IowaApp. 2006).

This article appears in the March 2006 issue