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Feds Are Gearing Up for Veterans’ Return to the Work Force, and Employers Must Prepare as We Welcome Our Veterans Home

Constangy Brooks & Smith LLP (03/08/12)

As an estimated one million veterans return to the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are preparing for veteran-related litigation. Employers can expect a renewed focus on the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, the EEOC’s recently issued guidance for veterans on the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the DOL’s proposed regulations regarding “military-related” leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Employers should begin preparing to facilitate successful transitions for veterans returning to the civilian work force. USERRA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of their military status or military obligations. It also protects the reemployment rights of individuals who leave their civilian jobs to serve in the uniformed services, including the U.S. Reserve forces and state National Guard units. Unlike many other federal statutes, USERRA applies to all employers, regardless of size.

DOL’s recently proposed regulations on the Family and Medical Leave Act were intended to interpret the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2010, which was enacted after the most recent version of the FMLA regulations became effective in January 2009. Employers need to be sure that they avoid discriminating against veterans, that they make all necessary reasonable accommodations, and that they comply with these laws. Violators are unlikely to get much sympathy from any quarter.