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Published: 6/18/2009

House OKs new leave benefit for military families

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - The Ohio House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to require larger employers to provide up to two weeks of unpaid leave for spouses and parents of military personnel when they are first called up for a combat zone or are injured or hospitalized.

"Ten days of unpaid leave to ensure that military families have enough time to make the transition to their new status is not too much to ask in return for the defense of our country," said Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), the bill's sponsor.

"One of the jobs of legislators is to protect those who are making the sacrifices for our country," he said. "Denying military families their most vital time together during a period of extreme stress would be a failure to do that job."

The bill, which goes to the Senate for consideration, would apply to businesses with 50 or more employees. While not having to pay a worker's wages during the leave, the employer would have to continue making contributions to that employee's benefits and keep the job available for the worker's return upon the leave's completion.

Workers, in turn, would have to have worked for the company for at least a year before requesting such a leave and would first have to exhaust vacation and other compensatory leave. They also would have to give their employers 14 days' advance notice.

The bill passed the chamber by a vote of 86-8 with northwest Ohio Reps. Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), Jeff Wagner (R., Sycamore), and Bruce Goodwin (R., Defiance) among the "no" votes.

"I have the fundamental belief that employers of the state are some of the most patriotic people and support veterans and their families," Mr. Wachtmann said after the vote.

"This is part of a long list of bills that shows contempt for our small business community. I'm not aware of a single veteran's family that has been disciplined by an employer."

He said he believed other members of the House Republican caucus supported the bill, in part, because it would have been unpopular politically to oppose it.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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