Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ohio Supreme Court punts on individual discrimination liability … for now

Earlier this summer, I reported on Hauser v. City of Dayton, which I hoped would answer the question of whether Ohio’s employment discrimination statute still provided for individual liability for managers and supervisors.

Last week, the Court issued its ruling in Hauser, and, disappointingly, punted on the issue. Yes, the employer technically won the case, and the Court held political-subdivision employees (i.e., public-sector workers) are immune from discrimination lawsuits.

On the bigger question, however, of whether Revised Code chapter 4112 imposes liability on managers or supervisors in general, the Court punted. It concluded that it did not have to revisit Genero (the case that originally concluded that 4112 imposes liability on individual managers and supervisors), because the employer in that case was in the private sector. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that its “reasoning in this case calls the Genaro majority’s reasoning into question, particularly its basis for distinguishing the prevailing interpretation of Title VII.”

For now, Genaro and its imposition of individual liability lives to fight another day. Private-sector managers and supervisors can still be sued for their own individual acts of discrimination. Moreover, Ohio employers are now split down public / private lines as to whether managers and supervisors can be held individually liable for discrimination.

Yet, Ohio employers have hope that when presented with the right case, this Court will overturn Genaro and rid Ohio of its anomalous individual liability. Or, Ohio’s legislature can do right by our state’s employers and pass legislation ending this incorrect interpretation of R.C. 4112, which will bring Ohio into line with the discrimination laws of nearly every other state and Title VII.