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Veteran sues over disability discrimination in New Jersey

Are military veterans treated unfairly by potential employers due to stereotyping?

At least one former Marine in New Jersey thinks so after he was turned down for a position as a firefighter in Paterson despite his qualifications and preferential status as a veteran when applying for government jobs. He believes that he was discriminated against once the city found out he had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his experiences in Afghanistan.

Paterson added 25 new firefighters to the city’s rolls in 2017, the same year the veteran applied. After finishing with the third-highest score on the civil service exam, the veteran thought that he would surely be among them. However, he was contacted shortly after his psychological evaluation and told that he wasn’t being offered a position because of his diagnosis.

Now, he’s suing over what he considers discriminatory hiring practices by the city. Employers (even government ones) are not allowed to discriminate against a potential employee in the hiring process simply because that employee is disabled. Employers can refuse to hire someone if that person’s disability would prevent them from performing the essential functions of the job — unless a reasonable accommodation could be made.

In this case, the would-be firefighter wasn’t offered any accommodations. However, he also wasn’t asking for any.

The veteran points out that the PTSD diagnosis was given to him while he was still in the military — and he was still found fit to continue serving. He alleges that the PTSD would not affect his ability to be effective as a firefighter and blames nothing more than simple prejudice for the city’s attitude.

Disability discrimination in the hiring process is a serious problem for many. When someone’s “invisible” disability isn’t detected in the job interview but discovered later, it isn’t unusual for a job offer to suddenly evaporate. (An employer may claim that an offer was never really there in the first place.) If this has happened to you, it might be time to get some legal assistance.

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