Thursday, March 4, 2010

It’s time to bring Ohio’s discrimination law in line with its federal counterparts

At Jottings By An Employer’s Lawyer, Michael Fox discusses pending legislation in Missouri that would bring that state’s employment discrimination laws into line with their federal counterparts. Ohio needs the same reforms.

There are at least four key areas in which Ohio law is out of line with its federal counterparts. This dissymmetry creates an uneven playing field, in which employees are encouraged to forum shop their claims.
  1. Exhaustion of administrative remedies. Under Ohio law, a plaintiff can proceed directly to court without first filing any claims with the state or federal agencies. The federal statutes require that an employee file a charge with the EEOC before filing a complaint alleging discrimination in court.
  2. Time periods for filing claims. Under Ohio law, an employee has 6 years to file all types of discrimination claims except age claims, for which they have 180 days to file. Under federal law, an employee has 300 days to file an agency charge, and an additional 90 days to file a lawsuit after final disposition by the agency.
  3. Supervisor and manager individual liability. Under Ohio law, managers and supervisors can be held personally liable for their own acts of discrimination. This type of liability does not exist under federal law.
  4. Damage caps. Damages for employment discrimination claims are uncapped under Ohio law. Under federal law, compensatory and punitive damages are capped based on the size of the employer, and max out at $300,000 for each.
These reforms are needed to: i) eliminate the confusion that exists between two different procedural schemes to remedy the same alleged conduct; ii) remedy the problems created by employees shopping their claims between state and federal forums; and iii) remove disincentives for businesses to choose Ohio as their place of operations.