Remember back in May when I wrote about a court that said harassing people at work for their military service was not illegal? The case was one where airline pilots who are military members sued after being mocked and ridiculed at work due to their military service. They sued for hostile work environment under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA says employers can’t deny any “benefit of employment” due to military service. “Benefit of employment” includes “advantage, profit, privilege, gain, status, account, or interest.” The 5th Circuit said USERRA “does not refer to harassment, hostility, insults, derision, derogatory comments, or any similar words. Thus, the express language of the statute does not provide for a hostile work environment claim.”
Well, if you were planning on harassing a subordinate or coworker because they’re in the military, you no longer have a green light. President Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 on November 21, 2011. Along with lots of employer incentives and benefits for service people, this new law fixed the stupid loophole allowing harassment.
The Department of Labor hasn’t issued regulations on this yet, but the law is in effect now.
Maybe now Congress can fix some more loopholes in employment laws that end up with stupid results for non-military members. No? I didn’t think so.
a. If you think you’re being harassed due to your military service, report it in writing to HR and give them an opportunity to fix the situation.
b. If the company doesn’t fix the situation and the harassment continues or you are retaliated against for reporting the harassment, you probably have a legal remedy now under USERRA.
c. Anyone who harasses someone due to their military service is a royal jerk who should be fired. I’m just saying.
So what do you think? Is this a good new law? Should you be allowed to harass people due to their military service? What other loopholes should Congress be working on? I’d love to see your comments.
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