United States Representative Derek Kilmer, from Gig Harbor, Washington, submitted a bill to congress that would provide anti-discrimination protections to military veterans. Tacoma-based The News Tribune reports that the protections would be similar to those provided to other protected classes such as race, religion, or gender. Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut proposed the same legislation in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this bill would allow military veterans to bring a discrimination lawsuit or file a grievance with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for employers’ discriminatory acts.
According to the article, military veterans often face discrimination from potential employers who see them as “risky hires.” This perception is often based on veterans’ deployments or the employer’s erroneous perception that returning veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. However, this bill would prevent employers from refusing to hire veterans or from paying them lesser wages based on the employee’s prior military service.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) already protects veterans from employment discrimination. Under the WLAD, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or prospective employees based on their military status or status as an honorably discharged veteran. This law also prevents other kinds of employment discrimination such as harassing, firing, demoting, or failing to promote a person based on military or honorably discharged veteran status. The WLAD allows the victims of unlawful discrimination to file a grievance with Washington’s Human Rights Commission or to file a discrimination lawsuit.
Current federal law protects some job rights of veterans. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”) allows for returning service members to be reemployed in the same job, with the same seniority status, that they would have held if they were not deployed for service. USERRA also provides for reasonable training so that returning service members may be reemployed and prohibits discrimination against disabled veterans. However, the law does not provide protections to current or prospective employees based on military or veteran status. The bill that Representative Kilmer submitted to the House of Representatives would provide nondiscrimination protections to veterans similar to those that the state of Washington already provides under the WLAD.
In addition, both Washington and federal laws protect disabled veterans from discrimination. WLAD, USERRA, and federal nondiscrimination laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on an employee’s disability. Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations so that employees with disabilities can perform the essential functions of their jobs. If employers discriminate against employees or potential employees based on disability, those employees may bring a discrimination claim.
The proposed federal bill would protect veterans and military service members from employment discrimination. Veterans and service members in the state of Washington already enjoy these protections. For more information about the laws that protect current and former members of the military, contact an employment lawyer.