Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Why it doesn’t matter that Ohio’s concealed-carry law removed its discrimination protections

We are going to begin 2017 near where we brought 2016 to a close—gun-owner protections.

Shortly before the end of Ohio’s 131st legislative session, Governor Kasich signed into law Amended Substitute Senate Bill 199, which, among other provisions, creates certain rights for lawful handgun owners to store said handguns in their vehicles parked on the property of their employers. You can read the specifics here.

Eleventh hour legislative wrangling removed certain provisions that would have elevated “concealed handgun licensure” to a protected class under Ohio’s employment discrimination law, on par with race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, and ancestry. The enacted version of the bill removed these protections, while maintaining employees’ concealed-carry rights in their vehicles.

The questions, however, is does this omission make a real-world difference? Under Ohio law, the termination of an at-will employee that jeopardizes a clear public policy articulated in the Ohio or United States Constitutions, federal or state statutes, administrative rules and regulations, or common law creates a cause of action for wrongful discharge in violation of that public policy.

Ohio Revised Code section 2923.1210 now protects the right of a person who has been issued a valid concealed handgun license to transport or store a firearm inside the person’s privately owned vehicle while parked on employer’s property. Thus, if an employer terminates an employee because the employee is lawfully storing a gun in his or parked car on the employer’s property, that employee likely can assert a wrongful discharge claim.

In other words, S.B. 199 elevates concealed handgun licensure to a protected class in function.

I applaud the Ohio legislature for removing the anti-discrimination protections from this bill. I am concerned, however, that it did not go far enough by leaving the wrongful-discharge loophole in place.