With more and more veterans returning from duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, the topic of veterans’ disabilities and the issues they face in seeking employment has garnered greater public scrutiny in recent months. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued revised guidance addressing how employment laws govern veterans’ employment. In general, the revised documents incorporate changes dictated by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA), and broaden the scope of impairments that constitute “disabilities” and may require reasonable accommodations. According to the EEOC, the amendments to the workplace discrimination law make it easier for disabled veterans to get reasonable accommodations. The EEOC’s revised guidance is aimed at assisting veterans, many with service-connected disabilities, and employers better understand their rights and obligations under the employment laws.
Concerned that courts were construing the term “disability” too narrowly, Congress amended the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2008. EEOC’s guidance echoes Congress’ intent by broadening the definition of “disability.”
- Under federal law, “disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual’s major life activities.
- An individual may also be disabled if the individual has a history of impairment – even if the individual has been treated for the impairment.
- Employers are also prohibited from assuming impairment even if none exists.
- For example, the EEOC guidance specifies that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire a veteran because he/she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because he/she was previously diagnosed with PTSD, or because the employer assumes he/she has PTSD.
Please reference the EEOC website for more information on disability and reasonable accommodation.
The Guide for Employers
The first guidance document issued by the EEOC is aimed at employers and how they can prevent disability-based discrimination.
- Explains the protections provided to veterans with service-connected disabilities under the ADA and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and differentiates between the obligations under each act. Both federal laws protect veterans from employment discrimination based on military status.
- Provides guidance on the application of the ADA to recruiting, hiring, and provision of reasonable accommodations.
- Provides employers with information regarding applicable laws and regulations.
The Guide for Veterans
The second guidance document attempts to provide veterans with instruction regarding their employment rights.
- Provides insight to veterans with service-connected disabilities about protections to which they are entitled, including steps they can follow if they believe employers have failed to provide them with a reasonable accommodation, or unlawfully denied employment.
- Explains the types of reasonable accommodations that may be appropriate in helping disabled veterans obtain and maintain employment.
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