Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn
Veterans Day – a federal holiday observed annually on November 11 to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces – is an appropriate time for veterans who have returned to the civilian workforce to understand their employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
To help do this, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – an agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination – offers a publication entitled “Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Guide for Veterans” on the EEOC website.
The guide is intended to answer questions that injured veterans may have about their rights after they have left the service and returned to a civilian job or seeking a new job. It also explains the kinds of adjustments – called reasonable accommodations – that may help them be successful in the workplace.
The percentage of veterans who report having service-connected disabilities incurred in, or aggravated during, military service has risen in recent years. Approximately twenty-nine percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, compared to about thirteen percent of all veterans.
Common injuries experienced by veterans include missing limbs, spinal cord injuries, burns, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments. Other veterans leave service due to injuries or conditions that are not considered service-connected.
There are several federal laws that provide protections for veterans with disabilities who are looking for jobs or already in the workplace. Two of those laws – the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Title I of ADA – protect veterans from employment discrimination.
The USERRA has requirements for reemploying veterans with and without service-connected disabilities and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Title I of the ADA, enforced by the EEOC, prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with a disability.
The USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs – whether voluntarily or involuntarily – to serve in the uniformed services.
Under USERRA, employers must make “reasonable efforts” to help a veteran who is returning to employment to become qualified to perform the duties of the position he or she would have held but for military service whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability.
If the veteran has a disability incurred in, or aggravated during, his or her service, the employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate the disability and return the veteran to the position in which he or she would have been employed if the veteran had not performed military service.
If the veteran is not qualified for that position due to the disability, USERRA requires the employer to make reasonable efforts to help qualify the veteran for a job of equivalent seniority, status, and pay, the duties of which the person is qualified to perform or could become qualified to perform.
Title I of the ADA prohibits an employer from treating applicants or employees unfavorably in hiring, promotions, job assignments, training, termination, and any other conditions of employment because they have a disability, a history of disability, or the employer regards them as having a disability.
For example, employers cannot refuse to hire veterans because they have PTSD, were previously diagnosed with PTSD, or because the employer assumes they have PTSD. The ADA also limits the medical information employers may obtain and prohibits disability-based harassment and retaliation.
Lastly, the ADA provides that, absent undue hardship – significant difficulty or expense to the employer – applicants and employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodation to apply for jobs, to perform their jobs, and to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
The ADA defines an “individual with a disability” as a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded or treated by an employer as having such an impairment even if no substantial limitation exists.
Veterans are considered qualified for a job if they are able to meet an employer’s requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses, and are able to perform the job’s essential or fundamental duties with or without reasonable accommodation. The EEOC guide is available here.
Veterans Day coincides with holidays in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. The holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 and is distinct from Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May that honors those who have died while in military service.
On Veterans Day of 2019, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – would like to thank the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces for their service to this country. For more information about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.
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