“As we approach Veterans Day, EEOC is redoubling its efforts to ensure that veterans enjoy the bedrock American value of equality of opportunity that they have defended,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “We must continue to strive for an America where all of us, including veterans with disabilities, have an opportunity to contribute their talents in the workplace, support their families, and help bolster the economy.”
Caring for our veterans returning from service is not only an expression of gratitude but a moral obligation. This includes a responsibility to ensure that veterans have opportunities to participate in the workforce and realize their dreams. And it clears the way for every one of us to contribute to our nation’s economic engine and social fabric. We all benefit when people who want to work are able to participate in the economy.
Our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 – often after lengthy deployments — have suffered from higher unemployment than other veterans and civilians. These veterans also may face discrimination because of mental or physical disabilities. In some cases, veterans face employment policies and practices that rely on myths and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities – such as concerns about employing workers with PTSD – that can prevent veterans from earning a living. In other cases, veterans with disabilities may be unaware of the workplace right to request a reasonable accommodation to allow them to perform jobs for which they are qualified. In any case, unemployment, job loss, or career limitations can lead to financial difficulties that negatively impact the veterans themselves, their families and our society.
Unfortunately, disability discrimination continues to occur far too often. Charges filed with the EEOC alleging disability discrimination have remained persistently high – almost a third of all charges filed with EEOC include an allegation of disability discrimination. In fiscal year 2016 disability discrimination claims comprised approximately 40 percent of EEOC’s discrimination lawsuits.
We have strong laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to knock down barriers to opportunity facing veterans, but we need targeted outreach to ensure veterans know their rights under the ADA and how to seek enforcement. We also need effective outreach resources to help employers understand how the ADA applies to veterans with disabilities. That’s why EEOC is expanding employment opportunities for those who served our country by vigorously enforcing the law and increasing outreach to employers and veterans communities, thereby reducing barriers that prevent veterans from fulfilling their potential. Through private sector enforcement and litigation, policy and outreach work, and efforts in the federal sector, EEOC employees provide important services for veterans with disabilities to ensure that their rights to equal employment opportunity are upheld.
These resource documents – one for veterans and one for employers – help explain rights and responsibilities for veterans with disabilities in the workplace:
· Understanding Your Employment Rights Under the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Veterans answers questions that veterans with disabilities may have about workplace protections that apply when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs.
· Veterans and the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Employers explains how protections for veterans with disabilities differ under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and how employers can prevent disability-based discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.
The EEOC also has a responsibility to ensure that the federal government is a “model employer” for individuals with disabilities, which includes veterans with disabilities. The following resources about the hiring of individuals with disabilities into the federal government may help veterans with disabilities seeking federal jobs:
· The ABCs of Schedule A details the federal government authority to non-competitively hire individuals with disabilities into federal jobs, complete with separate tips for hiring managers, HR professionals, disability program managers, service providers, and applicants with disabilities.
· Tips for Applicants with Disabilities Applying for Federal Jobs was created by the 10-agency Curbcuts to the Middle Class Initiative to provide helpful information about searching for vacancies, the federal government’s application process, and the rights of applicants with disabilities.
· Q&A: Promoting Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Workforce explains how the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires equal employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities in the federal government.
Additionally, EEOC has designated staff in offices across the country to assist veterans who may be facing discrimination because of a disability. To reach the appropriate EEOC staff for your region for assistance or information, visit our new webpage at www.eeoc.gov/veterans.
For those who wish to file an employment discrimination complaint, EEOC’s website (www.eeoc.gov) has information, including time frames, about filing charges against private business or state and local government or a federal agency.