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Returning Minnesota veterans may require workplace protections

Returning to work after an extended absence can be a challenge for anyone, but veterans returning to workplaces in Minnesota may face unique obstacles, as well as potential employment discrimination.

Fortunately, there are legal protections available. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act provides several employment protections to service members returning to the workplace after absences of up to 5 years. For example, USERRA requires most civilian employers to restore to returning veterans the job and benefits that they would have obtained, had they not left for active service. Additional legislation may also now protect veterans from harassment in the workplace on the basis of their former or active military service.

For veterans with service-related injuries or conditions, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based upon a disability. Not only does the ADA make it illegal for most employers to refuse to hire, harass or take an adverse action against a worker on the basis of a disability, but employers in most instances are required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers if doing so will enable the workers to perform all of their job duties.

For veterans whose medical condition requires intermittent leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide unpaid leave to qualifying employees -- up to 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. The FMLA ensures that workers can utilize its protections without fearing any adverse consequences to their job security. However, the eligibility requirements can seem technical, and require precise record-keeping by the employee, as well as recertification after the 12-month period has expired.

Source: Pioneer Press, "Minnesota's returning soldiers face unique challenges in the job market," Julie Forster, Sept. 14, 2012

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