What is a protected veteran? This status was created through an amended version of the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), and prohibits discrimination against those identified in the act as protected veterans.
Protected veterans are provided with Affirmative Action-type requirements for certain employers to hire vets who fall under protected status. These requirements mean a more level playing field for disabled veterans and anyone else who is covered under VEVRAA law.
Who Is Considered A Protected Veteran?
- Disabled veterans
- Veterans who served on active duty during a war, campaign, or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized
- Veterans with an Armed Forces Service Medal “pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 FR 1209)”
- Recently separated veterans
All of the above must have a military discharge not characterized as Dishonorable. Most of the above descriptions are fairly self-explanatory except one–“recently separated veterans.” Who does this apply to?
A recently separated veteran is a protected veteran when they separate from the military/stop serving on active duty and for three years afterward. This three year period begins on the date of discharge/release from active duty. As with the other classifications of protected veterans, dishonorably discharged veterans are not protected under these rules.
Which Employers Are Required To Comply?
Under VEVRAA, employers doing business with the federal government must recruit, hire, and provide upward mobility for those with protected status. This applies to both contractors and subcontractors doing business with the government.
What Are Protected Veterans Protected Against?
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) official site has literature stating that protected veterans are, by way of their status, offered recourse under VEVRAA for employment discrimination that occurs “because you belong to one of the categories of protected veterans covered” under the law.
The DOL reminds veterans that under the law,”You cannot be denied employment, harassed, demoted, terminated, paid less or treated less favorably because of your veteran status.”
But there’s more–your employer cannot, under VEVRAA, refuse protected veterans any reasonable accommodations in the workplace for disabilities or related issues.
What defines a reasonable accommodation? According to the Department of Labor, it involves any “adjustment or change made to the workplace, or the usual way of performing a job, that allows a disabled veteran to perform the duties of the job or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.”
A reasonable accommodation does not change essential job functions, according to DOL literature. These adjustments can include but are not limited to:
- Accessible print formats for visually impaired employees
- Modified work schedules
- Sign language and interpretation of sign language
- Modifying or using common meeting areas with accessibility features
- Adaptive work environments that can be altered to provide greater accessibility
Filing A Discrimination Complaint As A Protected Veteran
Those who feel they have been discriminated against as protected veterans should file a complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). You cannot be legally retaliated against for filing a complaint including harassment, threats, coercion, etc.
Companies that violate protected veteran laws risk being prohibited from receiving future contracts with the federal government, and that includes violation of the anti-retaliation laws designed to protect veterans who file complaints.
To file a discrimination complaint as a protected veteran you must first file within the specified time frame established under the law.
According to the DOL, “If your complaint alleges a violation based on disability or status as a protected veteran, it must be filed within 300 days unless the time for filing is extended for good cause shown.”
You must download the appropriate complaint form (there are versions in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages) from the DOL official site. Once this form is completed you may submit in one of three ways:
- File the complaint form electronically with an OFCCP Regional Office
- Mail or fax the form to the appropriate OFCCP Regional Office, or
- File in person with any OFCCP District or Area office
There are offices in all 50 states. You will need to select the Regional Office, District Office, or Area Office nearest you.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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