The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a new guide for employersabout the rights of disabled veterans to be free from discrimination.
Veterans are entitled to the same rights as other employees and potential employees to be free from discrimination, but the law has added a few additional provisions for them. Disability discrimination seems to be on the rise, from my anecdotal experience fielding calls, and from the EEOC’s own statistics. Unemployment rates for veterans are higher than the non-veteran population.
Discrimination originates with fear: fear of the “other,” fear of a disability that the viewer prefers not to be reminded of, and, with mental illness, fear of a deviation from normality. Veterans are especially susceptible to irrational fears. Studies have found that many people assume that veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder, and that they will therefore be undesirable employees.
In addition to refraining from discriminating based on an assumption about a veteran, an employer may not consider the veteran’s disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs to discriminate against him or her.
On the other hand, employers with government contracts may have affirmative action obligations with respect to veterans, and therefore, for affirmative action purposes, may ask if a person qualifies as a disabled veteran, and may give that person preference because of that status.