In what is likely the final session day of the General Assembly, the Ohio legislature delivered a major victory for Ohio’s business climate by enacting House Bill 352 (HB 352). This legislation is the culmination of the Ohio Chamber’s efforts – which began in 2000 – to enact pro-business reforms to the state’s anti-discrimination statutes following detrimental Ohio Supreme Court decisions during its period of judicial activism.
Under HB 352, Ohio’s workplace anti-discrimination laws are modified by:
• Lowering the nation’s longest statute of limitation for workplace discrimination actions from six years to two years
• Requiring all actions alleging workplace discrimination to begin at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission
• Codifying the U.S. Supreme Court’s Faragher-Ellerth affirmative defense for hostile work environment actions
• Amending the process for filing age discrimination actions
These reforms to our employment discrimination laws will benefit employers in the Buckeye State because for far too long they have been exposed to prolonged periods of liability faced by employers in no other state. This prolonged liability can create a competitive disadvantage for Ohio companies because it may increase operating costs through higher insurance premiums, litigation expenses and document retention fees.
The Ohio Chamber’s Labor and Employment Law Committee played an instrumental part in garnering the necessary support for the bill by crafting solutions that brought the trial bar to a position of neutrality, testifying in support of the bill during the committee process and speaking with lawmakers individually to highlight the importance of the bill. Likewise, the bill sponsors – Representatives George Lang and Jon Cross – provided the leadership needed to get this bill across the finish line in a year that was unlike any other.
House Bill 352 is landmark employment law legislation in Ohio and will prove beneficial to employers in every corner of the state for years to come.