The Ohio House of Representatives has kicked off the legislative session by introducing a pro-business bill that will restore balance to Ohio’s employment discrimination statutes that have been a mess for years. House Bill 2, the Employment Law Uniformity Act, sponsored by Rep. Bill Seitz, corrects significant problems created by activist decisions by the Supreme Court of Ohio from the 1990’s. These decisions resulted in employers dealing with the longest statute of limitations for these types of claims in the country and employers having to defend claims before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and in civil court at the same time. HB 2 will retake legislative control of these important issues.
Uniform Statute of Limitations
HB 2 will reduce the timeframe to file an employment discrimination lawsuit from six years to one year while also extending the time to file a claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission from 180 days to one year. This creates a uniform statute of limitation for filing claims. These changes will ease compliance and allows claims to be resolved expeditiously when memories are fresh.
No Defending in Two Venues Simultaneously
Further, HB 2 prevents employers from being forced to simultaneously defend costly claims of discrimination in both civil court and the OCRC. If an employee files a claim with the OCRC, the employee cannot file a civil action until the OCRC process is complete. During the OCRC proceedings, the statute of limitations on the civil action is paused and then starts again upon completion. Thus, if an employee files a claim with the OCRC on day 200, once that process is done, the employee would still have 165 days to file a civil action.
Elimination of Liability for Individual Supervisors
The bill also eliminates liability for individual supervisors and managers. Presently, an employee in Ohio can file a lawsuit against both the employer or business and individual managers or supervisors. Eliminating individual supervisor liability will allow supervisors and managers to exercise sound judgment without fear of being sued. Currently, federal law does not allow for individual supervisor liability and a recent Supreme Court of Ohio decision even eliminated it for public employers.
Codifies Federal Case Law
Lastly, the bill also codifies federal case law that establishes an affirmative defense in hostile work environment harassment discrimination cases where the employer has a policy in place to address harassment discrimination, has trained their employees on the policy, and the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of the preventative opportunities provided by the employer. This will encourage employers to have strong protections against harassment and to remedy any violations of those policies quickly and swiftly.
These changes will bring Ohio’s employment discrimination laws more in line with their federal counterpart and those of other states. This will provide consistency and predictability for Ohio’s employers while maintaining robust protections for employees. HB 2, the Employment Law Uniformity Act, will create an even more competitive legal climate for Ohio and the Ohio Chamber will be working to ensure its passage.