Henry A. Arnett
Livorno and Arnett Co., LPA
1335 Dublin Road, Suite 108-B
Columbus, Ohio 43215
The Ohio General Assembly has just passed an act expanding the military leave benefits for Ohio firefighters who serve in the Ohio National Guard or other reserve units. Before, Ohio law, Revised Code §5923.05, provided that members of the Ohio National Guard or other reserve units were “entitled to a leave of absence from their respective positions without loss of pay for the time they are performing service in the uniformed services, for periods of up to one month, for each calendar year in which they are performing service in the uniformed services.” A month, for purposes of this section was defined as “twenty-two eight-hour work days or one hundred seventy-six hours.” After one month, the employee on military leave would continue to receive payments, but at a substantially lower rate.
This definition of a month, i.e., twenty-two work days or 176 hours, was fine for employees who work the standard five days, 40 hours per week, schedule. But firefighters typically do not work such a simple schedule; they work 24 hours shifts and generally would work considerably more than 176 hours in a calendar month. Application of the definition of a month found in Revised Code §5923.05 meant that most employees would receive their full pay if they were performing military service for a month, but a firefighter performing military service for that same month would receive only a portion of his/her pay.
House Bill 449 corrects this disparity. The bill, as passed by the General Assembly, provides that for a public safety employee, defined as a permanent public employee who is employed as a fire fighter or emergency medical technician, a month means seventeen twenty-four-hour days or four hundred eight hours, within one calendar year. Firefighters may now receive full pay for the first 408 hours they serve in the military during a calendar year.
House Bill 449 retains the same provisions on local jurisdictions enacting laws and on collective bargaining that were provided by former Revised Code §5923.05. Any political subdivision of the state may elect to make full pay to any of its permanent public employees who are called or ordered to the uniformed services for longer than one month, and while public employers and labor organizations are free to negotiate military leave provisions, no collective bargaining agreement may afford fewer rights and benefits than are conferred under Revised Code §5923.05.