As Veterans' Day was recently observed across the nation, Minnesotans are reminded of and thankful for the many sacrifices of our servicemembers during wartime and in peacekeeping efforts. Aside from the parades and other events held in their honor, veterans are the recipients of a number of extra protections in the workplace aimed at protecting them from disability discrimination.
Aside from certain protections granted to all citizens under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Minnesota has enacted a number of laws providing further protection to veterans, including those with disabilities. For example, the Veteran's Preference Act, which has been on the books for over a century, allows veterans to challenge their firing from most public-sector jobs in a way most of their coworkers may not be able to. Under the law, if a dismissal is challenged, the employer would have to prove that the firing was a result of "incompetency or misconduct," which is a significantly more difficult standard than those imposed upon at-will employees.
Now, a new law that went into effect in Minnesota this year has extended these protections to jobs in the private sector as well. Aside from protections against wrongful termination, veterans also benefit from measures that provide preference in hiring and promotions. The new law enhances the rights of veterans, who already receive protection under the law against discrimination due to their veteran status.
Despite the many protections afforded by the law, veterans - just like other workers - can still be the victims of workplace discrimination. Even without the additional laws providing preference in hiring and a heightened standard to support demotion or firing, any worker terminated on the account of a disability or other protected status may have a legal claim for wrongful termination. Understanding all the protections afforded to workers in a given situation is the first step towards ensuring a positive outcome in the event of an unfair and untimely job loss.
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Business forum: Veterans armed with job protection," Marshall Tanick, Nov. 11, 2012