Florida readers may be surprised to learn that military veterans discharged for minor offenses frequently have difficulty finding employment. As a result, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities recently warned workplaces not to discriminate against veterans based on discharge status.
When a military member leaves service, he or she can receive an honorable discharge, a dishonorable discharge or a less-than-honorable discharge, known as "bad paper." Dishonorable discharges are issued over serious offenses and require a court-martial, but bad-paper discharges can be issued over relatively minor infractions, such as tardiness, talking back or fighting. They can also be issued for suicide attempts or other events associated with mental health problems. According to the commission, these discharges are disproportionately issued to black, Latino and gay veterans. They are also frequently issued to disabled veterans, including those with brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately, many private employers don't like hiring veterans with bad-paper discharges. Some may not understand the distinctions between military discharges and assume a veteran is guilty of a major offense. In addition, a potential employer may not know the injury background of the veteran involved. As a result, one veteran told a media outlet that he felt like a "felon" while looking for a job. While states like Connecticut and Illinois have taken legal steps to protect bad-paper veterans, some lawmakers believe the real answer is for the U.S. military to stop issuing bad-paper discharges.
Veterans who experience workplace or hiring discrimination may find relief by contacting an employment law attorney. An attorney could assess the case and suggest the best legal action to pursue. In some cases, legal counsel may recommend filing a discrimination lawsuit against the employer.