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Veterans protest disability-related job interview questions

A complaint over questions asked in a North Carolina job interview raises an issue that employers in California and throughout the country should be aware of when interviewing a military veteran or anyone with a disability. A group of veterans in North Carolina has filed a complaint with Haywood County commissioners regarding questions that were asked of a veteran who was being interviewed for the position of veterans service officer for the county. They contend that one candidate was asked questions about a disability, which is a violation of federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws.

A veterans liaison for the state said that the candidate expressed concerns about disability discrimination because of the questions that were asked. Approximately a dozen veterans supporting the candidate voiced their complaints at a county commissioners meeting.

One of the members of the panel that conducted the interviews acknowledged that an applicant was questioned about a disability, but that it was simply part of their conversation, and had no impact on the panel’s recommendations. He contends that the people who are complaining are simply disgruntled because their friend was not chosen for the job. Of the six applicants interviewed by the committee, two were recommended to the county manager, who made the final decision.

The state veterans liaison, however, says that he has no opinion about the person who was chosen as the new veterans service officer. The person in that position assists veterans in applying for benefits and with other issues. The liaison says that he and the veterans who spoke out are objecting to the way the interview was handled. He says that if the process violated Equal Employment Opportunity laws, any selection made as a result is illegal. The county attorney said that his office will investigate the charge.

As more veterans return home and enter or rejoin the workforce, those with disabilities may face questions when they are interviewing for jobs that are illegal — putting them in an awkward position. Many disability rights advocates would advise employers who are uncertain about what they can and cannot ask that you never ask about someone’s disability or what they cannot do, but focus your questions on what they can do.

Source: 
Smokey Mountain News, “Disability discrimination alleged in hiring of county veteran’s officer” Caitlin Bowling, Aug. 28, 2013

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