New Veterans Law Offers Tax Credits to Employers and Recognizes Hostile Work Environment Claims Under USERRA

by Poyner Spruill LLP
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On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act. This new law was passed quickly and with rare bipartisan and bicameral support. Two of the more significant provisions of this new Act are discussed in this Alert.

First, this new legislation provides for job training and transition assistance to veterans, which is a direct attempt to reduce their unemployment rate. The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the jobless rate for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan is 12.1% - much higher than the national average of 9%. A more detailed analysis of this figure reveals that approximately 2/3 of these veterans are under the age of 35 which, when broken down further, translated into an alarmingly high unemployment rate of 21.9% in 2010 for males ranging in age from 18 to 24. The new law provides a range of methods to address this situation, among which are increases in education and training, job counseling, transition and placement assistance, and additional help for disabled veterans. Of particular interest to employers are the tax credits available for companies which hire veterans...

Second, the new law amends the Uniformed Services Employment Rights Act (USERRA) - the federal law which provides job protection to service members - to recognize claims of hostile work environment based on an individual’s military status. By amending USERRA to prohibit discrimination with respect to the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” the VOW to Hire Heroes Act establishes the same standard for hostile work environment claims on account of military status as that governing Title VII and similar employment discrimination laws...

Please see full alert below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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