Talent Circles

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

American Disabilities Act & Military Veterans: Know the Rules

Learn more about best practices in recruiting veteran and military job seekers by joining a Talent Circles sponsored webinar on 2/13/14 at 9:00 PM PSTClick here to register & learn more. 

Each year, thousands of military personnel stationed around the world leave active duty and return to jobs they held before entering the service or begin the job search looking for new work. The transition from military to civilian life can be difficult for any active duty military member regardless of the time they spent serving our country. The time spent serving our country, in my opinion, is the ultimate American sacrifice.

A growing number of veterans report high rates of service-connected disabilities. These are disabilities that were incurred in, or aggravated during military service and the service of our country. About twenty-five percent of recent veterans report having a service-connected disability, as compared to about thirteen percent of all veterans. Common injuries incurred by these veterans include missing limbs, burns, spinal cord injuries, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, traumatic brain injuries, and other impairments. For employers, it’s important to understand how service-connected disabilities are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The ADA defines an individual with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.” An individual with a disability is qualified if he/she is able to meet an employer's requirements for the job, such as education, training, employment experience, skills, or licenses, and is able to perform the job's essential or fundamental duties with or without reasonable accommodation. This includes military veterans and individuals returning from deployment, active duty military or national guardsmen and woman serving our country.

The ADA defines major life activities such as seeing, walking, hearing, concentrating as well as activities that involve bodily functions like the neurological system.
A request for reasonable accommodation under the ADA usually begins with a request from the individual or family member with the disability. Keep in mind the request doesn’t have to formally mention the ADA or a request for accommodation under the ADA.

A reasonable accommodation request can be one of the following: (This is not a comprehensive list.)
  • Anti-glare monitor
  • Footrest
  • Raised desk or work station that is wheel chair accessible
  • Braille materials or special computer programs for the seeing impaired
  • Permission to work from home
  • Special work lighting
  • Job coach
  • Reassignment to an open position of the same level
  • Request to leave work for treatment as well as part time or modified schedule work

One of the biggest misnomers is surrounding what is considered reasonable as “reasonable” is not defined according to the cost to a facility or an employer. While an accommodation of lowering or raising a cash register might cost an employer several thousand dollars, it is considered a reasonable expense especially when you also consider the cost compared to a large operation or company.
Although the ADA isn’t specific to military members, there are a number of veterans who qualify under the law to receive accommodation as a result of disabilities sustained during their time in the military. These disabilities don’t mean they are any less productive or important as an employee of your organization. They are loyal, dedicated and productive employees regardless of visible or invisible disabilities.

Employers looking for more information about the Americans with Disabilities Act can visit the EEOC’s website as well as the Job Accomodation Network. JAN provides free and confidential resources for workplace accommodations and disability employment issues including former active duty military.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a leading voice in HR and workplace technology. She’s an author and founder of  Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @jmillermerrell.

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