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Former military members may face discrimination in the workplace

Our Colorado readers are certainly among the most aware of Americans that our country's population and laws are both constantly evolving and adapting. While certain specific changes to Colorado state law have made national headlines within the last couple of months, there has been less of a focus on how laws already in place are adapting to our country's changing population. And, for employers, one segment of the population which will need to be taken into consideration over the next several years is former military members who are returning to civilian life - and are doing so with a disability.

Although much of the news coverage has for years focused on military members who return home with lost limbs or severe disfigurement from explosives, there are many others who will attempt to readjust to civilian life while suffering from a newly developed mental disability - such as post-traumatic stress disorder. And, oftentimes, employees with these disorders are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act just as surely as an employee with a lost limb would be.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against an employee or potential employee based on that person's disability - whether mental or physical. Also, if the specific disability requires it, the ADA says that employers must make reasonable accommodations for the employee.

To be fair, many employers have quite a bit less experience accommodating mental disabilities than they do physical ones. However, to take one example, a recent report indicated that discrimination complaints against employers from employees suffering from PTSD have increased every year for the last six years. While we all need to be able to adapt with the changing world surrounding us - which can take some time - employers in particular should be sure that they are in compliance with employment laws meant to protect specific groups of the population which may already be at a heightened risk of being discriminated against.

Source: statesman.com, "New issue in workplace: accommodating veterans with PTSD," Kelly Yamanouchi, Dec. 24, 2012

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