Revised guidelines for both employers and veterans regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act

By: Marion Cooper

On February 28, 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced the publication of revised guidelines for both employers and veterans regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”).  The new publications address changes to the ADA’s definition of the term “disability”, which was broadened under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 to include, among other conditions, a wider range of military service related disabilities such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Before the amendments, the ADA’s definition of the term “disability” had been construed narrowly, significantly limiting the law’s protections.

With large numbers of veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan, attention is now being focused on veterans’ challenges in obtaining and successfully maintaining civil employment.  According to the EEOC, approximately “25 percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, as compared to about 13 percent of all veterans.”  And, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in October, unemployment for post-9/11 veterans hovers around 12 percent, which is more than three percentage points higher than the overall unemployment rate.  The EEOC wants “veterans with disabilities to know that the EEOC has resources to assist them as they transition to, or move within the civilian workforce,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.

The Guide for Veterans answers questions about an injured veteran’s rights when returning to civilian life and explains the kind of work adjustments or reasonable accommodations that may help veterans be successful in the workforce.  It explains that, in addition to the ADA protections for disabilities, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) protects veterans from discrimination on the basis of their military status.

The Guide for Employers explains how the ADA applies to recruiting, hiring, and accommodating veterans with disabilities and differentiates the protections available to veterans with disabilities under the ADA from the protection afforded to veterans under USERRA from discrimination in employment.  The Employer’s guide provides information on additional laws and regulations that employers may find useful if they decide to make recruiting and hiring veterans with disabilities a priority.

Both guides may be found at the EEOC website at:

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/ada_veterans.cfm http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/ada_veterans_employers.cfm