Northeast Times

Congresswoman wants to beef up ban on veterans discrimination

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U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz last week in­tro­duced le­gis­la­tion to strengthen an ex­ist­ing law that pro­hib­its work­place dis­crim­in­a­tion against vet­er­ans re­turn­ing from ser­vice.

Schwartz (D-13th dist.), in her fourth two-year term, un­veiled the Ser­vice­mem­bers’ Ac­cess to Justice Act on June 21. Sen. Bob Ca­sey in­tro­duced the act in the Sen­ate on May 23.

The Uni­formed Ser­vices Em­ploy­ment and Ree­m­ploy­ment Rights Act of 1994 re­quires that em­ploy­ers promptly re­in­state re­turn­ing vet­er­ans to their ci­vil­ian jobs.

“The un­em­ploy­ment rate among vet­er­ans is ten per­cent in Mont­gomery County, and in Phil­adelphia County is a stag­ger­ing 16.6 per­cent. We ab­so­lutely can­not al­low those who sac­ri­ficed so much for our coun­try to be left with no job and no fin­an­cial se­cur­ity when they re­turn home,” Schwartz said.

“I have fought for ex­pan­ded job op­por­tun­it­ies for vet­er­ans since com­ing to Con­gress in 2005 and will con­tin­ue to en­sure our brave men and wo­men in uni­form can re­turn home with the med­ic­al, edu­ca­tion­al and job op­por­tun­it­ies they need and de­serve.”

The act would:

• Pro­hib­it em­ploy­ers from re­quir­ing ser­vice mem­bers to give up their abil­ity to en­force their rights un­der USERRA in court in or­der to get or keep a job.

• Re­quire a Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice study of cur­rent em­ploy­er edu­ca­tion pro­grams re­lated to USERRA and the so­li­cit­a­tion of re­com­mend­a­tions for ways in which gov­ern­ment agen­cies can co­oper­ate to en­hance em­ploy­er edu­ca­tion.

• En­hance the rem­ed­ies avail­able to ser­vice mem­bers who prove that their rights un­der USERRA were vi­ol­ated by adding dam­ages.

• Re­quire fed­er­al agen­cies to provide no­tice to con­tract­ors of po­ten­tial USERRA ob­lig­a­tions.

“With the in­creased de­ploy­ment of the Na­tion­al Guard and Re­serve forces in the post-9/11 era, en­for­cing ci­vil­ian em­ploy­ment pro­tec­tions provided for Guards­men and Re­serv­ists has proven to be prob­lem­at­ic,” said Fang A. Wong, na­tion­al com­mand­er of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion. “This le­gis­la­tion would make strides to­ward bet­ter pro­tect­ing our ser­vice mem­bers by ex­pand­ing their ac­cess to re­course.” ••

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