On January 12, 2021, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 352 (the “Employment Law Uniformity Act”), which makes overdue changes and provides long-awaited clarifications to Ohio’s employment discrimination statutes. In addition, the Act creates a new framework for claims brought under the Ohio Civil Rights Act, the state’s workplace anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation statute.
An employee who wishes to pursue a claim for employment discrimination will now be required to exhaust administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission within two years of the allegedly discriminatory practice. A charge can be filed against an employer, an employment agency, personnel placement service, labor organization, or a person.
Additions to the Ohio Civil Rights Acts include presenting examples when: (1) the employer used reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexually harassing behavior; and (2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
Individual Liability of Supervisors
In 1999, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Genaro v. Central Transport, Inc. that individual supervisors could be held personally liable for employment discrimination or other violations of the Ohio Civil Rights Act. Since that ruling, supervisors and managers in Ohio have operated under the threat of being sued being individually sued.
The Act overrides the Genaro decision by narrowing significantly the circumstances under which individual liability may be available under the Ohio Civil Rights Act to claims for (1) retaliation for opposing a discriminatory practice; (2) aiding a discriminatory practice; or (3) obstructing a person from complying with the Ohio Civil Rights Act.
What This Means for Employers
- Ohio employers may want to take a fresh look at their employment policies and practices in light of the broad scope of changes to this law. The Act underscores the need for all Ohio employers to maintain robust policies against workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and ensure that those policies are known to employees and enforced.
- Likewise, amid all the changes wrought in the workplace by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shift to remote work and the potential for blurred lines between employees’ personal and professional lives, this is an especially opportune time for employers to train employees and supervisors in the workplace policies.
In sum, the Act is expected to encourage the early resolution of disputes, give employers greater certainty about their potential risks of liability, and reduce the costs of litigating claims brought under the Ohio Civil Rights Act.
For More Information
To discuss training and procedures, or for general information, contact SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc. at 330-255-1101.