Veteran’s Preferences Do Not Violate Law

A Kansas state statute provides broadly that veterans “shall be preferred for appointments and employed to fill positions in every public department and upon all public works of the State of Kansas, and of the counties and cities of this state, if competent to perform such services.” When the City of Leavenworth failed to promote one veteran to the position of sergeant, and another veteran to the position of lieutenant, they brought a lawsuit claiming that the City’s actions violated the veteran’s preference statute. When the case ended up in the Kansas Supreme Court, one of the key issues was whether the veteran’s preference statute violated the “privilege and immunities clause” in the Kansas constitution. The clause, a version of which appears in almost every state constitution provides that “no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted by the Legislature, which may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the same body.”

The Court found that the veteran’s preference statute did not violate the privileges and immunities clause. The Court found important that the veteran’s preference statute contained a qualification that the veterans be “competent to perform such services.” The Court concluded that “by vesting discretion in the hiring authority to determine whether the veteran is competent to perform the duties of the office sought, the statute avoids constitutional infirmity.”

State of Kansas v. City of Leavenworth, 2007 WL 4354419 (Kan. 2007).

This article appears in the March 2008 issue