House Bill Could Pose Complications For Businesses’ Operations

This week before the House Civil Justice Committee, the Ohio Chamber gave testimony on House Bill 221 (HB 221) which, if enacted, would enable anonymous wage discrimination complaints to be made with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The Ohio Chamber opposes this legislation because we believe the current wage discrimination reporting system is adequate and the new system will lead to the disruption of a business’ operations.

Under the bill, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission is required to create a system that allows individuals to make anonymous complaints of wage discrimination through the Commission’s website or toll-free telephone number. Additionally, the Commission must review every complaint in a timely manner once a complaint is received.

The bill is short on specifics and definitions because it is only one page long. It does not define what review must take place or provide any guidelines for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to implement the review process. The bill also does not limit who may make a valid complaint or how many times a person can make the same complaint against the same company. Thus, it is easy to imagine the filing of countless complaints against a business for no other reason except to disrupt the operations of that business.

The Ohio Chamber believes the current process to report anonymous wage discrimination is better suited to review complaints of wage discrepancies. Current law provides that an individual can file a charge of wage discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission online or in person. Once a charge is filed the Commission must assign the case to an investigator who will reach out to the company and inform them of the charge. The company can then agree to mediation or provide a response to the charge that the investigator will consider when determining if there is probable cause of discrimination. Perhaps the most important aspect of the current process that is missing from HB 221 is the requirement stating the charge must be made under oath.

Making a charge under oath is critically important because it should prevent any charges from being filed that have no basis in fact. Removing that requirement, like HB 221 has done, is problematic because there is no recourse available for businesses or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to pursue when individuals make false claims.

The Ohio Chamber is alarmed that HB 221 has received three hearing in House Civil Justice Committee because in prior years this type of legislation would not have advanced this far through the committee process. On behalf of our members, we are continuing to monitor its progress and we will keep sharing our concerns over the bill with your elected officials.