Given the hazardous nature of military work, a greater proportion of veterans will be diagnosed with a disability compared to the general populace. According to statistics collated by Military.com, the number of veterans diagnosed with a disability has reached 41% with post-9/11 veterans particularly affected. These veterans often have specific mobility or accessibility needs that the workplace needs to meet. If you are a veteran with accessibility needs, it’s important to know exactly what your rights are and how the workplace needs to adapt to show that they respect those rights.
Workplaces have a legal responsibility to provide adjustments to their workplace. There is a caveat in this rule depending on whether or not a condition is considered a disability under the relative pieces of legislation in US law. However, it remains that the majority of conditions impacting US veterans are covered under disability laws and, as outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate veterans living with these disabilities. Furthermore, if you are injured at the workplace due to poor adherence to reasonable adjustments, you are not automatically at fault. Legal experts JJS Justice note this in their personal injury practice area, and where injury has occurred as a result of a lack of reasonable adjustment, there are often grounds for aggravated charges under discrimination.
How far should an employer go?
What adjustments an employer makes should be based entirely on what the job demands and what your role is likely to entail. For instance, if you work in an office-based environment and are a wheelchair user, your employer should make adjustments to allow you to access work – whether that’s via remote working or adjustments to their offices. If you are found to be the best candidate for the job, yet aren’t hired due to an employer’s unwillingness to put in reasonable adjustments, this could be discriminatory under the ADA.
There are, of course, limitations in place. If the nature of disability means that the job in question is impossible to complete - for instance, serving in the military - an employer has a right to refuse to hire. However, this must always be given clear reasoning in line with active legislation and with all possible reasonable adjustments already made. An employer cannot presume to refuse you access to employment-based on what they think your limitations are owing to your condition, and they must research all possible avenues before refusing to hire you if you are the right candidate for the job.
Finding gainful employment can be made more difficult when living with a disability. American veterans are often affected by this, given the disproportionate amount of veterans who need reasonable adjustments in the workplace for their disability. Being aware of your legal rights before you enter the job market is crucial to ensuring you are treated fairly and properly by all employers and not left without the potential for a good job.