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Military Personnel and USERRA

Each year, thousands of military personnel leave active duty, looking to return to jobs they held before entering the service or look to find their first, or new, civilian jobs.

According to government statistics, between October 2001 and February, 2008, more than 30,000 veterans returned home with service-connected disabilities (e.g., amputations, burns, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injuries).

At least two federal laws provide important protections for veterans with disabilities. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

While most employers are familiar with the provisions of the ADA, they are not as familiar with the provisions of USERRA. It is for this reason that I wanted to share some information about USERRA and hiring a veteran with a service related disability.

USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of those who leave their civilian jobs (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state, District of Columbia, and territory (e.g., Guam) National Guards.

Both USERRA and the ADA include reasonable accommodation obligations; however, USERRA requires employers to go further than the ADA by making reasonable efforts to assist a veteran who is returning to employment in becoming qualified for a job.

The employer must help the veteran become qualified to perform the duties of the position whether or not the veteran has a service-connected disability requiring reasonable accommodation. This could include providing training or retraining for the position. USERRA also applies to all employers, regardless of size.

With so many veterans returning from war with service related disabilities, it is wise for Corporate America to become familiar with, and embrace these protections in all of their recruiting efforts.