Some of your veterans may have injuries or an illness, resulting in a disability because of their service. If an employee reveals to an employer that they have a disability, the employer must accommodate that employee, whether the disability is physical or a mental health issue, so that the worker can perform the essential functions of the job. Be sure to check with disabled employees on any accommodations they may need. A common perception of a “wounded warrior” is a veteran who has lost an arm or a leg, or someone who uses a wheelchair. Keep in mind that hearing loss, vision impairment or having limited mobility of an arm is also considered to be a disability. Veterans do not have to disclose a disability, and employers are not allowed to ask questions about any disability in a job interview, though an employer can ask a candidate whether they can perform the functions of the job.
Every employee is different, veterans included. Some simply require special accommodation.
Every employee is different, veterans included. Some simply require special accommodation. The good news is that if handled in the right way, your investment in service-disabled employees will likely be rewarded with loyalty and dedication.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
It’s possible to discriminate against a disabled worker unintentionally.
Discrimination can include not providing a reasonable accommodation for known limitations caused by a disability. “Reasonable accommodations” can include job restructuring; a part-time or modified work schedule; reassignment to a vacant position; adjustment to training materials or policies; acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; providing qualified readers or interpreters; or modifications that will make the workplace accessible.
Make sure your hiring managers and supervisory officials are trained in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act; and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Ensure that Employee Assistance Program providers are trained in veterans’ issues and that they are screening for veteran employees seeking assistance, including post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Giving preference to disabled veterans, or “wounded warriors,” is allowed. However, you cannot favor a person with one type of disability over someone with another disability. For example, hiring someone because they have a physical but not a mental disability would constitute discrimination. Also, you can fire a wounded warrior for lack of performance like any other employee, but only if that person is not performing the essential job functions.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s America’s Heroes at Work program has created an employer fact sheet and resource guide that can help you navigate these issues, particularly PTS and TBI. Click here for more. Heroes at Work also has technical assistance centers at 10 regional centers. Call them at 800-949-4232 or go to ADATA.org.
More information on “reasonable accommodations” can be found by clicking here.
The Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free confidential guidance on disability issues. Call them at 800-526-7234 or visit AskJAN.org.
The federal government’s Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) is a centrally funded effort that provides technology and reasonable accommodations to some wounded warriors. Call 703-681-8813 or go to CAP.mil.