Last month Congress unanimously passed and the President signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work (or ”VOW “) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. It’s a very catchy name, and provides both a carrot and a stick for employers. First, employers get a tax credit for hiring an unemployed veteran. The longer the period of unemployment, the better the tax credit, up to $9,600 for a disabled veteran out of work for more than six months.
Second, the law clarifies that a person’s military status supports a claim of hostile work environment. Hostile work environment based on sex, race, and national origin, among other things, violate the country’s civil rights laws, based on court recognition that a hostile work environment changes the “terms and conditions” of employment.. But recently a federal court refused to recognize a hostile work environment based on veteran or military status. Now military status is clearly entitled to protection from harassment.
With veterans suffering a much higher than normal unemployment rate, this law’s incentives may help returning military personnel reintegrate into civilian life.