Injured Service Members Fight to Find Employment
In this tough economy, employers have the luxury of choosing from a large pool of highly qualified candidates, which can make finding a good position for any applicant difficult.
Even with these obstacles, one would expect a candidate that can claim strong communication, problem solving, resilience, collaboration and conflict resolution skills on a resume to stand out from the crowd — especially when these attributes, common skills gained by service members in any branch of the military, can also be confirmed by reputable references.
Yet, many service members find they need to fight for employment opportunities, particularly if they were injured while serving their country.
Disabled Veterans Protected From Employment Discrimination
A variety of laws offer disabled veterans protection against disability discrimination in the workplace. These laws often extend to cover the entire employment process, from hiring to termination.
One law offering these protections is The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). To qualify for coverage, a veteran must establish that he or she has a disability that substantially limits major life activities. The standards applied to determine whether a disability is covered have been relaxed in recent years. As a result, the increasing number of veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, often qualify for protections under the ADA.
Additional disabilities covered by ADA protections include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Hearing loss
- Loss of limbs
This law is designed to provide veterans with disabilities the same rights as others who are applying for employment. It does not allow employers to refuse to hire a qualified applicant based on the presence of a disability or past military service. The ADA applies to private employers as well as state and local government employers with 15 or more employees.
In addition to banning discrimination based on a disability, the ADA also requires accommodations in some situations. Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities covered by the ADA can include flexible scheduling to allow the individual to attend counseling or physical rehabilitation appointments, making things easier to reach for an employee in a wheelchair or allowing a service animal to enter an office building.
The ADA is not the only piece of legislation that protects veterans against employment discrimination. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act also provides protection to military employees. This law focuses on protecting individuals from discrimination based on military status or military obligations as well as reemployment rights for service members who leave a job for deployment.
Once the veteran returns, the employer is required to take reasonable steps to help the veteran transition back to the civilian position. This can include providing additional training or finding a comparable position to the job the veteran had prior to deployment.
Not an Uncommon Problem
Every year, thousands of service members return home and begin the search for employment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates that within recent groups of returning veterans, 25 percent experience some form of disability.
If you or a loved one is facing discrimination in the workplace due to a disability, you are not alone. Remedies are available and can range from reinstatement of employment to compensation for lost wages. Contact an experienced disability discrimination lawyer to discuss your legal rights and remedies.