Effective March 23, 2008, Ohio’s Anti Discrimination law will include “military status” as a protected class for purposes of employment, housing, and public accommodations as a result of Governor Strickland signing into law the “Ohio Veterans Package, Substitute House Bill 372. Already included as protected classes under Ohio law are race, color, sex, disability, national origin, age (40 & older), ancestry and religion.

Some Definitions

As defined in the legislation:

“Military status” means a person’s status in “service in the uniformed services” as defined in section 5903.01 of the Revised Code.

Under Revised Code 5903.01:

“Service in the uniformed services” means the performance of duty, on a voluntary or involuntary basis, in a uniformed service, under competent authority, and includes active duty, active duty for training, initial active duty for training, inactive duty for training, full-time national guard duty, and performance of duty or training by a member of the Ohio organized militia pursuant to Chapter 5923, of the Revised Code. “Service in the uniformed services” includes also the period of time for which a person is absent from a position of public or private employment for the purpose of an examination to determine the fitness of the person to perform any duty described in this division.

“Uniformed services” means the armed forces, the Ohio organized militia when engaged in active duty for training, inactive duty training, or full-time national guard duty, the commissioned corps of the public health service, and any other category of persons designated by the president of the United States in time of war or emergency.

House Bill 372 also creates new Ohio R.C. section 4112.023, which provides that if a person’s civilian job is inherently military, the person must pursue military, rather than civilian, channels when pursuing employment discrimination claims based on military status.

Implications of New Ohio Law

Although the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) already protects military service, the new amendments broaden this protection at the state level and make remedies more accessible through investigation by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The law also requires the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to assign a staff person to ensure the complaints are handled quickly. Another, more immediate effect: employers will need to re-word all of their EEO/discrimination policies and posters to include “military status” as a protected category.