Monday, January 28, 2008

Military Members to Receive ‘Protected Status’. Is it an issue?

On a topic near and dear to my heart, Columbus Dispatch’s Jeb Phillips reports today about the new Ohio law granting ‘Protected Status’.
It will soon be illegal in Ohio to discriminate against people because of their military status, the same way that people can't be discriminated against because of race, religion or disability.

Regular active-duty service members and reservists or National Guard members who have been activated for service or who must report for training will be considered a "protected class" as of March 23. That means that in the areas of employment, housing, real estate, credit and public accommodation, military status can't be a factor. (Source)

Now, as the article goes on to explain, there are federal laws that cover this but the Ohio one tightens it.

Truth be told, I am not one to automatically advocate the government meddling in business affairs, but sometimes it is necessary. Protected Status, however misused by ambulance chasing lawyers looking to make 33%, is needed for so many people. It is important to see the good such laws do.

I can tell you from personal experience that being a former Active Duty Sailor, and now a proud Navy Reservist, it is amazing the subtle and not so subtle attitudes of employers and, as I have learned recently, hiring managers of potential employers.

You would be floored by some of the comments and questions I have received during interviews. You would be surprised to hear some of the assumptions I am able to perceive from people. And also, for those of you out there interviewing and hiring, your views of the war and thus Veterans, DO come through. You may claim them to be two separate issues, but sadly, they are not.

Here are some things I wish employers knew about Veterans and Reservists:

- We are not mindless zombies who wait for orders. We take initiative. Has a lack of initiative in your job ever cost lives? We take initiative.

- We do not build teamwork through “barking orders”. It doesn’t work that way. Please try and remember it is an all voluntary military. If we did not know how to genuinely build teams, everyone would leave.

-The average age of someone in the military who gets a supervisory position for the first time is about 20. Would you let your 20-year-old be responsible for a multi-million dollar F/A-18 Aircraft? The military does not hire leaders: They develop them.

- People who served in the Military lived in civilian communities, married civilians and went to school in the civilian world. We vote, pay taxes and enjoy a good meal at Applebee’s too. We did not live behind a fence saluting everything that moves. We understand how to interact with civilians. We are not from a different planet.

- We are a loyal people who believe in the team, a greater good and doing what is right. We are built to grow and develop in your organization, not to leave as soon as possible. Can your last employee say that?

- We are not overly concerned about working hours. We are more concerned about getting the job done. I used to go to work in November and get off in May. How long was your longest day?

- We believe in looking out for our co-workers and the company. That whole rising tide thing… It is more than a saying to some of us. Remember, we were never rewarded with cash bonuses. On the rare occasion we are recognized for exceptional work, it is done so by a piece of cloth holding a piece of medal. Those awards have very little cash value but mean the world to us.

Anyway, the point is, so many people wave an American Flag (not as much as they used to) post their “We support the Troops” signs and yellow ribbons, but far too few actually DO anything to support them.

Letters and packages sent overseas are nice as are prayers for those in harms way, but if you want to support the troops, stick with what you know. Hire a Veteran.

Worst case scenario, you may have to explain something new to him or her their first year, but in five or 10 years, when they are still working their ass off for you while employee after employee jumps ship over petty issues, you won’t mind so much.

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