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Hiding no more

One spouse pushes for job equity

Are military spouses less likely to be considered for jobs because they could move? One local spouse is trying to find out. Photo credit:

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Whitney Stafford is the epitome of persistence in advocating for equity for military spouses in the job market.

Several years ago after earning her Bachelor of Science degree, she sought employment in the social work market to earn an income and to determine where to concentrate in earning a Master of Social Work degree.

For six months she had no employment offers.  

"I could not get my resumé past the first round of hiring," wrote Stafford in an email.

During interviews she noted, "Questions would, at some point, revolve around my spouse's career in the military ... quickly after, the conversation would fizzle out."

It appeared to Stafford that since her spouse served in the Army and could be reassigned, she was not deemed employable.

She decided to act.

"I knew my being a military spouse was the major barrier to employment, and I wanted to confirm this," Stafford explained.

To validate her belief, Stafford sent 10 identical resumés to the same 10 employers in order to apply for 10 identical or very similar job postings she had previously applied for but had not received responses from. With one change.  

Assuming the potential employer had stopped reading at the words "Fort Lewis" Stafford's address, she changed it to "Lakewood."

"Not to my surprise, I received a call from all 10 of them, interviewed with six of them and (received) job offers from three of them," continued Stafford.

Not divulging she is a military spouse, she focused on one of the offers.

"I negotiated compensation, and picked a start date," Stafford continued, "but during the background check it was revealed that I was a military spouse, and the offer was pulled."

When Stafford asked why, she was told the company had decided to move in a different direction. When the job was relisted; Stafford decided to act.

"I would no longer hide my being a military spouse," she said.

Over coffee, State Representative Christine Kilduff (D-University Place) listened to Stafford. By the time Kilduff finished her cup, she had decided to take action.

Kilduff and other legislators -- to include colleague Dick Muri (R-Steilacoom) -- drafted House Bill (HB) 2456, legislation that fosters greater awareness of job equity for military spouses. Stafford and others testified in support of the bill, which passed the House with bipartisan support.  It now heads to the Senate.

Stafford is looking for testimonials from other military spouses who have been denied employment to insure passage in the Senate.

"I have literally heard from hundreds of spouses," Stafford explained.

Stafford hopes military spouses see HB 2456 as a tremendous step forward in finding employment.

To get involved, contact Stafford at whitneytstafford@gmailcom and reference "military spouse story" in the subject line. 

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