On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Veterans Opportunity Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which amended the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). VOW protects employees against hostile work environment harassment based on an employee’s military service.
Congress passed VOW after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that no provision within USERRA allowed employees to file hostile work environment claims when harassed by supervisors or co-workers because of their military duties. Lawmakers added the exact language from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to USERRA to ensure that the same standard applies to harassment claims based on military status that applies to claims based on other protected statuses such as race, religion, and sex.
In addition to making it easier for workers to sue their employers for harassment because of military status, the new law also provides tax credits to employers who hire unemployed veterans.
VOW takes immediate effect. The Department of Labor will issue regulations that implement the changes.