Home Social Justice Changes in employment discrimination may be in Ohio’s future

Changes in employment discrimination may be in Ohio’s future

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A bill that would change liability policies for businesses and limit the information people will be able to receive about employment discrimination was introduced at the beginning of February by Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.

Some reforms included in this bill, Senate Bill 268, would create a 365-day limitation on filing a lawsuit for all employment discrimination incidents, including lawsuits involving discrimination on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age (40 or over), disability or genetic form.

The bill would also eliminate liability for managers and supervisors and require individuals to elect between filing an administrative charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and filing a discrimination lawsuit in court. Having to choose one of these prevents employers from having to simultaneously defend both a civil action in court and a complaint before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which investigates claims of discrimination.

Currently, employees are able to file a lawsuit for up to six years after an act of discrimination has occurred. The law also permits unlimited damage awards and imposes personal liability on supervisors and managers. Ohio’s six-year statute of limitations is the longest in the country.  

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Ohio’s current law against discrimination is based on employers with four or more employees and applies to public and private employers, employment agencies and labor organizations. It does not include religious organizations. Factors on which employment discrimination is prohibited are race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions and retaliation.

The Ohio State Bar Association and Ohio Department of Higher Education do not have positions on the bill at this time.

Don Boyd, director of the Labor and Legal Affairs Department of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, strongly supports this legislation. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce feels that eliminating individual supervisor liability would allow supervisors and managers to exercise sound judgment without fear of being sued. They feel that this is an opportunity to fix a broken law.

Ohio’s discrimination laws are so different from federal law and other states’ laws that it puts the state at a competitive business disadvantage, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s blog said. This bill would allow a balance between employers and employees and preserve rights that employees should have against discrimination, it said.

The Ohio Employment Lawyers Association does not support this legislation and believes that this bill would allow employers and managers to harass employees without being held accountable for their actions. The organization thinks it would defeat important anti-discriminatory laws, harming the economy, legislative policy and the public.

The bill would apply short term limits and caps on compensation to employees from employers. Employees will have short time limits to file a claim. It also prevents the public and employees from having access to previous information about allegations of employment discrimination by sealing many of the investigations.

“The legislature has been on break throughout March due to the primary and, with their Easter break, likely will not start back up again until April,” Boyd said. “Therefore, there likely won’t be much happening until then.”

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