The number of military veterans with service-related disabilities has risen in recent years by approximately 16 percent. Disabled veterans who are considering civilian employment should first be aware of their rights before entering the job market.
Here, we review two major federal laws and resources which offer needed protection to veterans with disabilities, whether they are seeking civilian jobs or are already employed.
“Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights” (USERRA)
Under USERRA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants or employees based upon military obligations or status. Additionally, it shelters the rights to reemployment for individuals who either involuntarily or voluntarily leave their civilian jobs for military service. This includes District of Columbia, U.S. Reserve forces, and National Guards.
Employers are required to make “reasonable efforts” to assist military veterans who are returning to civilian employment so they may become properly trained and qualified for the job duties they would have performed, if not for their military responsibilities; regardless of service-related disability. If a veteran cannot perform the necessary job functions due to disability, the employer is required under USERRA to make reasonable efforts to help the veteran meet the criteria for a job of corresponding pay, status, and seniority, including duties for which the veteran is either qualified or potentially qualified to carry out. This may consist of offering free training/retraining for the particular position.
USERA is applicable to employers and companies of all sizes, and covers all veterans, including those with or without service-related disabilities. The “Department of Justice” (DOJ) and the “U.S. Department of Labor” (DOL) are responsible for enforcing USERA; more information can be gleaned at www.dol.gov/vets.
“Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA)
The ADA, which is implemented by the “U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission” (EEOC), disallows private, local, and state government employers with over 15 employees from showing discrimination against any individual based on disability. Veterans who meet the description offered by the ADA are protected by the law, regardless of whether or not the disability is service-related.
According to Title I of the ADA, employers are prohibited from participating in unfair treatment of an employee or job applicant based upon a disability or history of a disability. This incorporates all facets of employment, such training, hiring, job assignments, promotions, termination, and any other employment-related actions or privileges. For instance, an employer must not decline to hire a veteran on the basis that he or she has PTSD, received a prior diagnosis of PTSD, or because the employer presumes PTSD is present. According to the ADA, employers have access to a limited quantity of employee medical information; and any type of poor treatment (such as retaliation or harassment) is also prohibited under the act.
The ADA also provides eligible disabled employees and applicants with reasonable accommodation from the employer when applying for and/or performing their jobs, as well as the opportunity to reap equal privileges and advantages of employment. This encompasses access to the same areas of employer facilities that other employees are allowed, as well as employer-supported job training and social activities. This particular law is enforced with the exception of excessive hardship to the employer.
To be considered under the ADA, an individual must fall under the description of an “individual with a disability”, which includes:
- Having a physical or psychological impairment which greatly inhibits one or more significant life activity.
- Possess a documented history the impairment, such as the condition prior to treatment.
- Already receiving employer accommodations for existing impairment, regardless of significant limitations.
Employees are considered qualified if they are capable of meeting the employer’s job requirements, such training, education, skills, licenses, or employment services; and are capable of performing the job’s basic necessary duties, with or without the presence of reasonable accommodations.
For more information on the ADA, visit www.eeoc.gov.
For information on other veteran employment protection laws, please access the following resource links:
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