The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued revised guidance documents for employers and disabled veterans that address how various employment laws govern veterans’ employment. According to the EEOC, the revised documents incorporate the changes made by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA), “which make it easier for veterans with a wide range of impairments – including those that are often not well understood – such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to get needed reasonable accommodations that will enable them to work successfully.” The first guidance document aimed at employers differentiates between the protections afforded to veterans with service-connected disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); explains how the ADA applies to recruiting, hiring, and accommodating veterans with disabilities; and provides employers with information on the applicable laws and regulations governing this topic. For example, the guidance explains that:
although the ADA uses different standards than the U.S. Department of Defense and the [Department of Veterans Affairs] in determining disability, many more service-connected disabilities will also be considered disabilities under the ADA than prior to the ADA Amendments Act. In fact, some service-connected disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, major depressive disorder, and PTSD, will easily be concluded to be disabilities under the ADA.
In addition, the document states that, for example, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire a veteran because he has PTSD, because he was previously diagnosed with PTSD, or because the employer assumes he has PTSD. Similarly, an employer may not refuse to hire a veteran based on assumptions about a veteran's ability to do a job in light of the fact that the veteran has a disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The ADA also limits the medical information employers may obtain and prohibits disability-based harassment and retaliation.
The second guidance document aims to educate veterans on their employment rights, including the steps they can take if they believe employers have unlawfully denied them employment or failed to provide them with a reasonable accommodation.
In a statement, EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien said: “We want veterans with disabilities to know that the EEOC has resources to assist them as they transition to, or move within the civilian workforce,” adding, “The release of these publications demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that veterans with disabilities receive the full protection of the laws we enforce, and that employers understand how to comply with those laws.”
The publication of these guidance materials comes after the EEOC held a public meeting in November 2011 that included a panel discussion on obstacles disabled veterans face when re-entering the workforce. During that meeting Claudia Gordon, Special Assistant to the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), discussed her agency’s proposed rule that seeks to strengthen a federal contractor and subcontractor’s affirmative action requirements under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). Among other things, the proposal describes specific actions a contractor must take to satisfy its obligations, increases the contractor’s data collection obligations, and requires the contractor to establish hiring benchmarks to assist in measuring the effectiveness of its affirmative action efforts. The OFCCP expects to issue a final rule on these changes by July 2012.