Employers: What to Know Before Firing a Veteran Employee


Whether you’re facing a reduction in workforce, organizational change, or an employee who isn’t performing up to standards, terminating work when the employee is a veteran must be done with care and sensitivity.*

All employees hopefully receive the best of your company’s brand while they are employed and when the time comes to say “good bye,” but veterans may be a protected class of worker and employers should recognize there are rules and protocol around termination.


The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) provides protection for veteran employees of companies engaged in working with the Federal Government. Basically, OFCCP “makes it illegal for these companies to discriminate against protected veterans when making employment decisions on hiring, firing, pay, benefits, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and other employment related activities.

Before terminating employment with a veteran, employers are advised to determine whether the employee is part of a “protected veteran class,” and if special accommodations are warranted in transitioning them out of the company.


Additionally, members of the Guard and Reserve, are given protection under the law and employers should note special procedure when terminating employment. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a protection against unlawful prejudice or termination of employees who serve in the Guard and Reserve.  Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) is a Department of Defense agency who advises businesses on USERRA compliance and seeks to protect the rights of Guard and Reservists. ESGR reminds employers that, protection under “USERRA applies to all public, private, and government employers in the United States, large and small. USERRA applies to foreign employers doing business in the United States and American companies operating in foreign countries, unless compliance would violate the law of the foreign country in which the workplace is located.”


Aside from the legal and regulatory considerations employers must evaluate when terminating the employment of a veteran, there are often emotional consequences as well. Likely, the employer considered the employee’s previous military service (if disclosed) as admirable and valuable when hiring that individual. Businesses appreciate the skills, talents, character, and value veterans bring to the workplace, and ending employment with veterans sometimes feels disappointing and unpatriotic, regardless of how warranted the termination is.

If appropriate, employers can consider offering the terminated veteran employee:

  1. Access or referral to outplacement services designed for military veterans. Many communities have local staffing, workforce development and coaching firms who focus specifically on challenges veterans face when seeking civilian employment.
  2. Tools to help the employee better understand their role in the civilian workplace. From classes to books to online resources, empowering veterans with the tools to build a career after their military service is a meaningful offer.
  3. Mentoring can help the veteran employee identify their blind spots, work through their challenges, and articulate their value to the market. When done properly, mentoring can be formal or informal, from a veteran or civilian mentor, and is shown to return benefit to both parties.
  4. Coaching on what the employee could have done better in the job they had, and how to succeed going forward. Offer the veteran employee specific examples of how they can improve and where they fell short of meeting expectations.
  5. Networking contacts and introductions to help them pursue another job. From informational interviews to job prospects, helping the veteran employee build a network can sustain them for their career.

Terminating work with any employee is often traumatic for both the employee and the employer. When firing a veteran, remember the rules and leverage your brand’s ability to show compassion.


*I am not offering legal counsel or legal representation in any way in this article. Employers are advised to confer with their legal counsel to evaluate options under the law.

About Lida Citroen

Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at lida@lida360.com. She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at www.YourNextMissionBook.com and on Amazon.

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