Every year, thousands of military personnel leave active duty to return to jobs that they held before they entered the service or search for new jobs. During their time in the service, many veterans suffered disabilities such as missing limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. Unfortunately, because of this, it is not uncommon for servicemen and servicewomen to be discriminated against in in their current job or when searching for another job.
Fortunately, two federal laws protect veterans from employment discrimination based on their physical or mental impairments: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
The ADA and discrimination
The ADA prevents an employer from treating a current employee or an applicant unfavorably in all aspects of employment-such as hiring, promotions or terms and conditions of employment-because the employee or applicant has a disability or has a history of disabilities. This includes discrimination against what the employer perceives as a disability or an issue that is associated with the disability (e.g. increased sick days).
In addition, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons, including veterans, to apply for jobs and to perform their jobs, as long as it does not cause undue hardship on the employer. An example may be flexible work schedules for the disabled worker.
USERRA adds to the ADA protections by allowing veterans who are convalescing from injuries that were sustained while on duty (or during training). The law allows veterans who are recovering from injuries up to two years from their date of completion of service to return to their jobs or apply for reemployment.
In addition, USERRA allows service members who are called into active duty to be absent from work for five years without fear of losing their job. However, USERRA protections do not apply to initial enlistments lasting more than five years, periodic National Guard and Reserve training or involuntary active duty extensions and recalls.
Once veterans return to their jobs, USERRA requires employers to provide them with the same seniority, pay and status as they would have been had they not been absent due to military service. The law also requires the employer to provide reasonable efforts such as training or retraining to allow returning service members to successfully reintegrate into their jobs.
If you have experienced employment discrimination after having been injured while on active duty, contact an experienced employment law attorney. An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected.