Indiana Senate passes bill to protect veterans from discrimination

Men and women in the Armed Forces face numerous trials in the defense of their country. One issue they should not face, however, is discrimination in the workplace. In Indiana, a bill aimed at preventing workplace discrimination of veterans is making its way through the state's Congress. House Bill 1242 recently passed the state Senate and is that much closer to becoming law. The bill makes it illegal to refuse to employ an applicant based on his or her status as a veteran or to refuse to hire an applicant because he or she is a member of the Indiana National Guard or member of a reserve component.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously, 47-0, and is on its way back to the state House of Representatives for further consideration. Indiana has one of the highest National Guard forces in the country. In a press release issued after the vote, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jim Banks, noted that data from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee shows that veterans in Indiana have an unemployment rate of 20 percent, while non-veterans have an unemployment rate of 6.8 percent.

Federal protections already in place

It is already against federal law to discriminate against veterans because of their service. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 guarantees military members the right to be treated equally to civilians who take similar leaves if they temporarily serve in the Armed Forces. So, for example, an employer cannot terminate an employee who serves in the Indiana National Guard solely because he or she is subsequently deployed overseas.

At the state level, legislators have supported the bill to further protect veterans from workplace discrimination. "This legislation sends a message that Indiana cares for its veterans and will continue to advocate for them," Sen. Banks said in his press release. The bill also specifically mentions reserve components of the armed forces, who may have to take time off of work for training or other duties.

Federal law also protects disabled veterans. For members of the Armed Services who have been wounded, either mentally or physically, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to that employee. This may mean transferring the employee to less physically demanding day-to-day activities, for example, or maintaining a handicapped-accessible workspace.

Legal protections available

For veterans who believe they may have experienced discrimination, there are several legal remedies potentially available. A veteran who was unfairly terminated because of service may be able to obtain reinstatement to his or her position, recover back-pay and obtain other damages. Indiana veterans who believe they may have faced employment discrimination because of their service should contact an experienced Indiana employment law attorney to discuss legal options.