Under a bill signed by Governor Ted Strickland just before the new year, “military status” is now protected from discrimination to the same extent as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, and ancestry. This legislation—part of the “Ohio Veterans Package” (Substitute House Bill 372)—adds the words “military status” to the many statutes found throughout the Ohio Revised Code which prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other areas. These new prohibitions will take effect on March 24, 2008.

For purposes of this legislation, “military status” refers to the performance of duty, on a voluntary or involuntary basis, in a uniformed service 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. It also includes 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 such duty. (ORC 4112.01 [A][22]; 5903.01[G].)

It should be noted that military service is already protected in many respects by federal law, specifically, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”). However, the new amendments broaden this protection at the state level and make remedies more accessible through the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Another more immediate effect: employers will need to reword all of their EEO/discrimination policies and posters to include “military status” as a protected category.