Both federal and state laws protect employees in Ohio against discrimination and harassment at work.
Ohio actually had an anti-discrimination statute on the books years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Ohio Civil Rights Act, legislated in 1959, originally barred discrimination in businesses offering public accommodations, but it kept being expanded to embrace all businesses in the state.
The federal Civil Rights Act is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which fields complaints and investigates them with an eye to resolving the underlying issue. Statewide, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) has fulfilled many of the same functions of fielding charges and investigating.
There were differences in how the two agencies operated, however, which were just recently resolved by the enactment of the Employment Law Uniformity Act (EULA), which took effect in Ohio on April 15, 2021.
If you feel you have been discriminated against at your place of employment, and you’re in or around Dayton, Ohio – including throughout the counties of Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Drake, and Warren – contact Duwel Law.
Likewise, if you’re an employer facing charges of discrimination or harassment by an employee or group of employees, contact Duwel Law. We represent both employers and employees, vigorously defending the rights of both groups under state and federal law.
Discrimination means to take adverse action against an employee or job applicant, or treat them less favorably than others, because of their race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation or gender identity), pregnancy, age (40 and above), disability, genetic information, national origin, or veteran status, which comprise what are called “protected classes.”
Examples of discrimination include: being passed over for employment, having your shifts or hours cut, being dismissed, being denied advancement opportunities or needed training, and being subject to taunts or abuse based on one’s personal characteristics. Federal law also protects against harassment, which includes threatening, insulting, berating, or cursing out an employee, whether in public or private.
The federal Civil Rights Act has been expanded and added to through the years not only by legislation but also by court interpretation. Subsequent laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and others. The U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” in the original act to include sexual preference and gender identity.
It is important to note that the federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC generally cover only employees with 15 or more workers on payroll (20 for age discrimination claims). The Ohio Civil Rights Act applies to employers with as few as four employees.
The EEOC, the enforcing arm of the Civil Rights Act and subsequent anti-discrimination statutes, requires an employee to first file a charge with the agency before taking any legal action. In fact, the EEOC must, in most cases, issue what is called a “right to sue” notice before the employee can take legal action against their employer.
The OCRC, however, until this year did not require that a claim be filed before taking legal action. All that changed with the adoption of the Employment Law Uniformity Act (EULA) in 2021. The EULA now requires that a claim be filed before initiating a lawsuit. The statute also lowers the statute of limitations for filing a claim from six years to two years.
The EULA also includes provisions that help employers protect themselves against claims. For one, it limits the liability of managers and supervisors. For another, it provides an affirmative defense against a charge of a hostile work environment when it comes to claims of harassment.
The employer now can show that they exercised reasonable care in preventing a hostile environment or promptly corrected the situation once it arose. In addition, the employer can show that the employee failed to follow the company’s complaint or corrective procedures.
We can help employers implement sound policies to protect workers’ rights under state and federal law, and we can help employees exercise those very rights in the face of discrimination or harassment at work. Reach out to schedule a consultation, and let’s discuss the situation at hand.
At Duwel Law, we are well-versed in all aspects of employment law from both the employer’s perspective and that of the employee. If you’re an employer or employee in the Dayton, Columbus, or Cincinnati areas of Ohio and you’re facing a discrimination issue, reach out to us immediately. We are ready to stand by your side as you seek the resolution you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.