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Bill would give gun holders more rights in the workplace

Special to the Legal News

Published: August 14, 2015

Sen. Joseph Uecker has said the right to meaningful self-protection and recreation should be preserved regardless of where citizens park their vehicles.

To that end, the Loveland Republican has filed a bill into the Ohio General Assembly that would prohibit an employer from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee who exercises a constitutional or statutory right within the individual’s private real property or motor vehicle.

Uecker stumped for the measure, Senate Bill 180, before the Senate Civil Justice Committee.

“This legislation includes protecting those exercising their Second Amendment rights,” he said.

“As a former police officer, I understand the possibility of violence exists in simply leaving home to commute to work for many of our constituents. As a sportsman, I also appreciate that law-abiding citizens enjoy hunting before or after work but are burdened with traveling back home first to ensure that their firearms are legally stored.”

Uecker said the state’s laws currently allow employers to “force employees to surrender their Second Amendment rights before they arrive at work by prohibiting them from transporting and storing their firearms in their personal vehicles on an employer’s property.”

As a former business owner, Uecker said he understands the desire to maintain control over business rules and regulations.

“However, the government has long had the power to regulate countless aspects of a business owner’s property use, including signage that must be posted, the width, number and location of exits and entrances, ramp and sidewalk availability to name just a few,” he said.

“It is our duty to uphold constitutional rights above all other interests.”

According to a bill summary, existing Ohio law provides that certain specified acts are unlawful discriminatory practices, including an employer, because of the race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age or ancestry of a person, discharging without just cause, refusing to hire or otherwise discriminating against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.

If enacted, SB 180 would make it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to take these adverse employment actions because the person exercised a constitutional or statutory right within the person’s private real property or within a motor vehicle not owned or controlled by the employer, regardless of whether the motor vehicle is located on the employer’s real property.

A “constitutional or statutory right” includes any right prescribed by the U.S. Constitution or the Ohio Constitution, including any fundamental right, or any right granted under any U.S. or Ohio statute.

Under continuing law, any person may file a charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission alleging that another person has engaged or is engaging in an unlawful discriminatory practice.

The summary states that in the case of certain specified charges under continuing law — those that allege unlawful discriminatory practices not related to housing — or a charge of an unlawful discriminatory practice created in the bill, the charge must be in writing and under oath and must be filed with the commission within six months of the alleged practice occurring.

The commission may investigate the charge and may initiate further action in accordance with procedures specified in continuing law.

The commission may also conduct a preliminary investigation upon its own initiative relating to those unlawful discriminatory practices in current law or an unlawful discriminatory practice created by the bill.

Although continuing law requires that the commission must first attempt to induce compliance with Ohio’s Civil Rights law through informal methods, if the commission ultimately determines that an unlawful discriminatory practice has occurred, after a hearing the commission may issue an order to remedy the situation, including a cease and desist order or an order requiring back pay, reinstatement or hiring.

Under existing law, a person who violates the Civil Rights Commission law is subject to a lawsuit for damages, injunctive relief or any other appropriate relief.

SB 180 would not amend this provision but, under the bill, an employer who discharges without just cause, refuses to hire or otherwise discriminates against a person with respect to hiring, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, or any matter related directly or indirectly to employment, because the person exercised a constitutional or statutory right within the person’s private real property or within a motor vehicle may also be subject to a lawsuit.

Uecker said 22 states have enacted legislation similar to SB 180, including neighboring Kentucky.

“Research indicates there are no reports of violence resulting from the Kentucky law since it was enacted in 2005,” he said.

SB 180 is co-sponsored by Sens. Dave Burke, John Eklund, Jay Hottinger, Cliff Hite, Randy Gardner, Kris Jordan and Tom Patton.

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