Easy Steps to Take When Returning Veterans Come Knocking on Your Door

Contributed by Allison Chaplick

Since President Obama announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawing from Iraq by the end of 2011, thousands of men and women in the Armed Forces have returned home, and many are now seeking employment.  So, you may ask yourself, what do I need to do as an HR Manager when a veteran applies for a position with my company?  Are there any federal rules regulating the employment of veterans and those with disabilities?  Two of the federal laws that employers must be  familiar with when a veteran is applying for a job are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) http://www.dol.gov/vets/.

Importantly, an employer may not refuse to hire a veteran because he or she has a disability. For example, an employer can’t refuse to hire a veteran who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or because the employer assumes that, because he is a veteran, he has PTSD.  Also, employers cannot ask an applicant for medical information prior to making a job offer.  However, if an employer is undertaking an affirmative action plan for individuals with disabilities, or is voluntarily using the information to benefit veterans with disabilities, an employer may then ask its applicants to voluntarily self-identify as a “disabled veteran.”  If an employer does this, then the employer must clearly and conspicuously indicate on the written questionnaire or application that this requested information is for use solely in connection with its affirmative action obligations or efforts, and that such information will be kept confidential. 

During the hiring process, an employer may ask all of its applicants whether they will need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any part of the hiring process.  Such reasonable accommodations for disabled veterans may include documents in different formats, such as Braille or large print, or modified equipment.  An employer may also ask an applicant if he/she needs a reasonable accommodation to do the job if the employer reasonably believes that the veteran applying for the job has an obvious disability (i.e., blind, hearing impaired, or missing a limb) and will need a reasonable accommodation to do the job.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published the following guideline: Veterans and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Guide for Employers to help employers understand their responsibilities and rights when interviewing, hiring and employing veterans with disabilities. 

Check back at the end of this week for a post with more information specific to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)! 

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