5 Laws Supporting Your Veteran Workforce
During times of both conflict and peace, the American people have respected and admired men and women who choose to serve our country. In response to Veterans’ commitment to service, legislation exists to protect individuals who have served in the military and are now entering or returning to the civilian workforce.
Currently, there are five primary regulations protecting Veterans who work for a private employer.
1. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The ADA protects disabled individuals from discrimination by ensuring employers provide reasonable accommodations for candidates with disabilities. While not specifically legislated for Veterans, individuals who have been physically or mentally disabled as a result of military service can also benefit from the ADA. It prohibits any employer from using a candidate’s physical or mental disability to disqualify or discriminate against them for job opportunities or job benefits. Additional information is available at www.ada.gov.
2. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The FMLA states that any employee can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid absence for specified medical or family-related reasons. During this leave, the employee is guaranteed job protection and continued medical coverage under their current plan. While all employees can use FMLA, Congress expanded the program in 2008 and 2010 with two additional provisions specifically related to military and military family members. The first provision, referred to as an Exigency Leave, grants military family members 12 weeks time off within a 12-month period to handle issues that arise when a family member is deployed. The second addition established Military Caregiver Leave to provide family members of Veterans with up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period to care for a Veteran with a serious injury or illness related to their service. Just like other FMLA provisions, eligibility requirements for Exigency and Military Caregiver Leave must be met. FMLA details can be found at www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/.
3. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA): Congress passed the USERRA in 1994 to protect the rights of Reservists or Guard members who were called up to serve on active duty. The USERRA covers two vital components of job security: a protection against discrimination and a guarantee of the service members’ job upon return from active duty. It ensures that the service member is not discriminated against for any opportunity that is afforded to regular employees, such as promotion and employee benefits. It also mandates that the returning Veteran be retained in the same job position they previously held (or a comparable position) without any penalties, including loss of seniority, pay or benefits. Forms and resources supporting USERRA are located at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/.
4. Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) Reporting: As a part of the US Department of Labor, VETS helps Veterans obtain competitive employment. The service specializes in preparing, training and assisting Veterans with finding and pursuing employment opportunities. VETS Reporting also monitors the hiring of Veterans by Federal contractors and subcontractors, ensuring businesses who work with the government take affirmative action to employ Veterans.
Contractors who receive a contract or subcontract of $100,000 or more ($150,000 for reports filed in 2016) with the Federal Government for personal property and non-personal services (such as utility, construction, transportation, insurance, etc.) are required to report the number of “qualified Veterans” the organization hired during the past year. Additional program information can be found at www.dol.gov/vets.
5. Veteran Preference: Currently, 28 states offer private employers the adopt Veteran Preference in their hiring practices (two more states are adopting regulation later this summer). Veteran Preference allows employers to legally give preference to Veterans (who left service under honorable, general, or medical conditions) in regards to employment opportunities.
Employers utilizing this ability must have an established and written Veteran Preference policy included in their Human Resources processes. Veteran Preference does not guarantee job positions for Veterans, but rather insures that if two equally qualified candidates apply for a position, the Veteran would be given more consideration than the civilian.