EEOC pursues service-related harassment

The EEOC is putting employers on notice that it will vigorously enforce the rights of employees who serve in the National Guard or military reserves or who are veterans. It joins the Department of Labor in pushing employers to provide current and former members of the military with the rights they are entitled to under the ADA, the FMLA and USERRA, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

Last year, the EEOC filed an ADA lawsuit against a Wyoming employer for allegedly allowing a supervisor to harass a returning solider over injuries that probably were service-related. In late March, the commission has since brokered a settlement with the employer, which will pay more than $75,000.

The case: Jason, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, worked for Mine Right Technologies. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, he had to endure regular harassment about his condition from his supervisor. The man allegedly called Jason a “psycho” in front of co-workers. He referred to Thursdays as “Psycho Thursday” because that was when Jason went to therapy sessions to ease symptoms of his PTSD. Jason eventually quit to avoid further harassment.

In addition to paying the money, Mine Right Technologies’ settlement agreement requires the company to write a letter of apology to Jason and give him a positive employment recommendation. It must also train its employees on how to prevent disability discrimination.

Final note: Remember, both the FMLA and USERRA require employers to rehire returning military members once they recover from injuries suffered in the line of duty, including PTSD. (In addition, the FMLA grants extensive leave rights for employees who need time to care for family members who have been injured in the line of duty.)

Military-connected employees don’t need confirmation from the Department of Veterans Affairs that their condition is service-related. It is enough for their regular physician to state that the medical condition is service-related.

Read our white paper “USERRA: An Employer’s Guide to Military Leave Law” at www.theHRSpecialist.com/whitepaper.