Harassment of Veterans at Workplace

Military servicemembers deserve our gratitude for their sacrifices to keep our country safe. Many civilian employers are proud of the country’s veterans and eager to give them equal opportunities to earn a living when they return from service. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Many individuals hold prejudicial attitudes toward military servicemembers due to assumptions about their political beliefs, disability status, or mental health. When this bias prevents veterans from exercising their rights to equal employment, it’s not just unfair—it’s against the law.

This blog post will discuss an often-overlooked form of employment discrimination: harassment based on military status. We’ll examine some examples of veterans’ workplace harassment and explain how servicemembers facing mistreatment can get help. 

What Rights Do Veterans Have in the Workplace?

Many employees don’t realize that veterans and military servicemembers are a protected class. Federal and California law grants former and current servicemembers certain important rights and legal protections regarding civilian employment. These include protections against:

  • Prejudice in hiring due to military status;
  • Job termination because of pending active duty deployment;
  • Discrimination against veterans in benefits or opportunities for advancement;
  • Harassment of employees who plan to serve in the military; 
  • Demotion after returning from military deployment; and
  • Retaliation against servicemembers who exercise their legal rights.

Let’s look at some specific laws that offer these benefits to military veterans.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act 

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that bans civilian employers from discriminating against individuals for past, present, and future military service, including the service of National Guard members and reservists. USERRA also requires employers to return military servicemembers to their prior work role, pay rate, and seniority after they return from deployment. Employees who leave their jobs to perform military service have the right to continue employer-based health coverage for up to two years under USERRA.

Vietnam Era Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 

Veterans seeking employment with federal contractors and subcontractors can also benefit through the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). This law requires companies that do business with the federal government to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain protected veterans as employees. VEVRAA also prohibits discrimination or harassment of veterans or their family members in the workplace. 

Americans With Disabilities Act 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides additional discrimination protections for military servicemembers with physical or mental disabilities. Under the ADA, qualified veterans have the right to equal job opportunities and reasonable accommodations for their disabilities in the workplace. Withholding promised medical coverage and denying benefits to disabled veterans is illegal under the ADA. 

California Fair Employment and Housing Act

At the state level, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers its own version of these protections for veterans and current service members. California law bans employment discrimination based on disability, an employee’s military status, and the military status of an employee’s spouse or child

What Does Veteran Harassment Look Like?

Veteran harassment examples receive much less public attention compared to other incidents of job harassment. However, abusive behavior targeting military members in the workplace is just as illegal as harassment based on race or sex.

Under California and federal law, harassment in the workplace is illegal when it:

  • Targets an employee’s membership in a protected class, and
  • Is severe or pervasive enough to prevent an employee from performing their job.

Isolated events or light teasing usually aren’t enough to qualify as a violation of an employee’s rights. To rise to the level of illegal harassment, the inappropriate behavior needs to create a hostile work environment. This means a reasonable person would find the treatment intimidating or offensive. 

Here are some behaviors that could contribute to a hostile work environment:

  • Offensive or derogatory remarks about a veteran,
  • Assigning unfavorable tasks or shifts to employees returning from deployment,
  • Displaying pictures or messages that demean military service veterans,
  • Sabotaging the projects or work of employees who served in the military, and
  • Mocking or verbal harassment of disabled veterans who request job accomodations.

This is not an exhaustive list—many other abusive or threatening behaviors can create a job environment hostile to veterans. 

What Can I Do About Workplace Harassment as a Veteran?

First, it’s essential to know your rights. Under the USERRA, all civilian and government employers have a legal duty to protect employees from discrimination and harassment based on their military status. These protections apply to military veterans as well as individuals still in service. 

Do your best to document your mistreatment. Save all hostile emails, digital messages, or notes you receive. Take pictures of any offensive images or drawings you encounter. Keep track of the date, time, and location of any incidents of harassment. After the event, write down everything you remember about the experience, including the names of any witnesses.  

If you feel comfortable doing so, report the harassment to your employer. You can do this by raising your concerns with your manager or a human resources representative. If your company uses a formal complaint process, following those guidelines as closely as possible is a good idea. Once your employer knows about the harassment, they have a legal responsibility to investigate and correct it. 

Where Can I Get Help with Harassment at Work?

If you’re facing potentially illegal treatment at work, contacting a Los Angeles employment lawyer immediately is best. An attorney experienced in cases of discrimination and harassment against veterans is the best resource to help you understand your rights and options.

Depending on the situation, veterans can file a harassment complaint against an employer with several different federal and state agencies. Navigating the overlapping state and federal laws that apply to military employees can be challenging.

The support of a seasoned attorney can help reduce the stress involved in bringing a legal claim and strengthen your chances of getting a positive outcome. With the help of a skilled employment lawyer, veterans can recover financial compensation for the harassment they suffered.

Dedicated Legal Advocacy for Veterans 

It’s unacceptable when employers fail to fight discrimination against veterans, workplace harassment, or mistreatment of disabled employees. At Tomorrow Law™, we’re proud to represent service members past and present who face discrimination and harassment at work. Our team of skilled litigators has years of experience helping employees win accountability and compensation for violations of their rights. You don’t have to fight this battle alone—contact our office online or by phone to schedule a free consultation with a legal advocate today.

Author Photo

David Bibiyan is a distinguished attorney at Tomorrow Law, renowned for his expertise in employment law. With a strong focus on representing employees in various workplace disputes, he has become a trusted advocate for those facing discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, and wage and hour issues. Bibiyan’s approach is characterized by a deep understanding of both state and federal employment laws, ensuring that his clients receive knowledgeable and effective representation. His commitment to justice is evident in his dedication to each case, where he meticulously works to secure the best possible outcomes for his clients. Bibiyan’s reputation is built on a foundation of successful case resolutions, marked by his skillful negotiation and, when necessary, aggressive litigation strategies. His work at Tomorrow Law reflects a genuine passion for defending workers’ rights and promoting fair employment practices.

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