Looking Forward: Twenty Years After Genaro left Ohio’s Managers on the Hook

Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decision in Genaro v. Central Transport (84 Ohio St.3d 293), where the court found that supervisors in Ohio can be held jointly and severally liable for employment discrimination claims.

This case makes Ohio one of only a handful of states where supervisors as well as employers can find themselves a defendant in a lawsuit based upon an employee’s claim of discrimination in the workplace. Due to Genaro, supervisors at Ohio businesses are in a position where they must second guess their routine managerial decisions such as employee promotion, discipline, and hiring.

At the time of the Genaro decision, justices on the Supreme Court of Ohio routinely made law from the bench instead of leaving lawmaking to the people’s elected representatives in the Ohio General Assembly. Thankfully, the composition of the court has changed over twenty years, and now the majority of today’s justices have avoided the judicial activism of previous courts. In fact, only four years ago, the Court refused to extend the holding in Genaro to public sector supervisors.

However, Ohio businesses and private sector supervisors must still deal with the consequences of Genaro until a legislative fix is found or the decision is overturned by the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce is actively pursuing changes at the Ohio General Assembly that would align Ohio’s employment discrimination law with federal law by preventing individual supervisors from facing personal liability for the decisions they make while acting as an agent of the employer.

That change in the Ohio Revised Code is good for business in Ohio because our employment discrimination law will no longer be an outlier across the country, public and private employers will once again be on the same playing field, and it will allow our talented leaders to make sound decisions without fear of personal liability.