Ohio’s employment discrimination statutes are an outlier compared to all other states, and it is putting Ohio at a competitive disadvantage for attracting and retaining job creators. Under current state law, the statute of limitation for employment discrimination is the longest in the nation at six years, supervisors and managers can be held personally liable in employment discrimination lawsuits, employers can be faced with defending the same discrimination claim in multiple venues at the same time and there are three separate ways to file an age discrimination claim causing confusion for employers and employees.
However, all these issues can be eliminated with the passage of House Bill 352 – which Representatives Jon Cross and George Lang introduced this week. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce stands with these legislators and will be advocating for passage of their legislation throughout the remainder of this General Assembly.
The enactment of House Bill 352 would have a significant positive impact on Ohio employers by lowering the six-year statute of limitation to two years, requiring the filing of employment discrimination claims with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) prior to filing a civil lawsuit, eliminating individual supervisor liability, codifying a federal affirmative defense for hostile workplace claims, and creating one common-sense age discrimination cause of action.
The Ohio Chamber supports these changes because a lower statute of limitation will create more certainty for employers and reduces their document retention costs. The administrative exhaustion requirement at the OCRC before filing a lawsuit will benefit employers by eliminating the need for additional resources to simultaneously defend against the same claim in different venues. Also, creating an affirmative defense for hostile workplace claims will strengthen an employer’s defense against these claims.
Another benefit the legislation will bring to Ohio is that for the first time it will be possible to gather accurate information on the type and frequency of discrimination taking place here. The requirement under House Bill 352 that calls for all state law employment discrimination claims to first be filed with OCRC gives the commission the opportunity to track, compile data, and research employment discrimination claims in Ohio. This data can then be utilized by employers to assure that their workplace anti-discrimination policies and employee handbooks address the most common types of discrimination and include robust reporting procedures for these claims.
Now is the time for Ohio to update its employment discrimination statutes, so that states like California, Oregon, New Jersey, and New York cannot be perceived as more business friendly than the Buckeye state.