Military Law

Veterans' Reemployment - Accommodating Disabilities

Did you serve in the military? Veterans have made great sacrifices for our country. Many receive injuries and have to live with a disability. Trying to re-enter the workforce can be a challenge for disabled veterans.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) helps veterans return to their old jobs. It contains special provisions for veterans with disabilities. If you're a disabled veteran, you may have a right to reemployment.

Veteran's Right to Reemployment

You have a right to reemployment if you follow the conditions under the USERRA. The five conditions are:

  • You held a civilian job when you volunteered or were called to duty
  • You told your employer that you were going to serve
  • Your service time was five years or less 
  • You were released from the military with at least a general discharge
  • You reported back to work in a timely manner

Your employer must take you back if you meet these conditions. Mostly, you're entitled to the position you would have been in but for your service. This is called the escalator position. The USERRA imposes additional requirements for disabled veterans.

Reasonable Accommodations for Disabled Veterans

Your employer must place you in the escalator position you would have been in. Your disability doesn't matter for USERRA purposes if your performance isn't affected. If your disability limits your job performance, your employer has a duty to make reasonable accommodations for your disability.

What's a reasonable accommodation will depend on a variety of factors. The main factors include:

  • The nature of your disability
  • The job requirements
  • The circumstances surrounding your specific situation

In order to be covered, your disability must have occurred or been aggravated during your military service period. The law doesn't require a training or combat injury.

Alternate Job Positions

What happens if your employer can't accommodate you? It must reemploy you to a similar job position. It must be equal in seniority, status and pay. If no similar position exists, you must be reemployed to a job that's as close as possible.

Your employer is responsible for discovering suitable job positions for you. It should take into account certain key questions, including:

  • Can you perform the job safely without unreasonable risk?
  • Are you qualified for the job?
  • Can you perform the essential duties of the job?

Undue Hardship to the Employer

In most situations, your employer should be able to accommodate any disabilities you have. This right to accommodation isn't unlimited. The USERRA protects employers in certain situations. Your employer doesn't have to make an effort that'll cause an undue hardship.

Whether a particular accommodation will cause an undue hardship will depend on your specific situation. Any action that's impossible or unreasonable for the employer isn't required under the USERRA.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are the benefits of having an attorney help me to apply for reemployment?
  • After my military service, can I work for a different employer and then apply for reemployment with my old employer?
  • Do I have to take an alternate job position or can I force my employer to give me my old job back?
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