Quick Hits

  • The United States celebrates Veterans Day on November 11, 2023, to honor military veterans.
  • Many employers are capitalizing on the benefits of employing veterans and leveraging their unique skills and specialized training.
  • Employers may want to consider legal protections for veterans and military service members returning from active duty.

1. Hiring Veterans Has Its Benefits

There are nearly 20 million veterans in the United States with nearly 9 million in civilian jobs. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, approximately 200,000 service members transition to civilian life each year. Beyond patriotism, hiring veterans may make good business sense. As a result of their military service, veterans may have specialized training or skills and other attributes, such as leadership, loyalty, or teamwork skills, that employers may find valuable.

Federal law does not prohibit employers from giving preference to veterans in hiring and in some cases may favor it. The Veterans Preference Act entitles preference to veterans for jobs in the federal government. Additionally, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) requires federal contractors in certain circumstances to take affirmative action steps to employ qualified disabled veterans.

2. Support for a Veteran Workforce Is Key

While veterans can be valuable members of an employer’s workforce, employers may want to consider the physical and mental health challenges that many veterans cope with as a result of their military service. Employers may want to consider programs or policies to help employees who are veterans manage their challenges and thrive in the workplace.

Veterans with disabilities are also protected from employment discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits employers with fifteen or more employees from treating employees or applicants unfavorably, including in hiring, promotions, job assignments, or other terms and conditions of employment, based on an individual employee’s or applicant’s disability, regardless of whether that disability is tied directly to the individual’s military service.

3. Discrimination Against Service Members Is Prohibited

Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), employers are required to provide reemployment protection for veterans and service members who are involuntarily or voluntarily deployed for military service. This protection means that service members who meet certain conditions are required to reinstate such employees to their jobs or jobs with the same benefits upon returning from military service. In many cases employers may have to reinstate returning service members into the position they would have obtained with reasonable certainty but for their military absence under what is known as the “escalator principle.” USERRA further prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees on the basis of their current, prior, or prospective military service.

Additionally, the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004, which amended USERRA, requires employers to continue health care coverage for deployed military members for twenty-four months and to notify covered employees of their rights and benefits under USERRA.

4. Service Members and Their Families May Be Entitled to Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides protections for military families, entitling covered employees whose spouse, parent, or child who is deployed to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, in a twelve-month period for qualifying exigencies, including arranging for child care for the children of military members. For those service members who are injured, a spouse, parent, child, or next-of-kin is entitled to up to twenty-six weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve-month period to provide for their care.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Employment Law and Leaves of Absence blogs.

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