How can veterans protect against job discrimination?

If you are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, you gave of yourself and sacrificed for your country. Returning to civilian life requires a big adjustment from your enlisted years. And, it generally also means reentering the civilian workforce. As you search for a job, you might wonder whether there could be job discrimination against former military service people. 

Federal laws protect veterans from discrimination just as similar laws prohibit the same based upon race, religion and gender. However, according to Forbes job discrimination against veterans can often take very subtle forms, including: 

  • Refusal to return you to your prior job after a tour of duty 
  • Questions during a job interview that are illegal 
  • Disregarding your pertinent military job experience that can be translated into comparable civilian jobs 

Certain federal laws are in place to defend against those and other types of discrimination. The one that specifically establishes a protected class for military service members is called USERRA, or The Uniformed Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. The two main safeguards it provides are one, that you must be reinstated to the job you had before deployment and two, that employers cannot discriminate based upon your military service. This applies to both government and private employers and the size of the employer is irrelevant. 

Another federal law that protects veterans is the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944, which is in effect when you are applying for a federal job. If both you and a non-veteran are applying for a certain position, you are given preference. Should there be layoffs, you are more likely to be retained than a non-veteran. The rationale behind this law is to show appreciation for and recognition of the sacrifices that you made.