For lack of more artful description, Ohio’s employment discrimination law was a mess. It exposed employers to claims for up to six years (the longest such statute of limitations in the country), contained at least three different ways for employees to file age discrimination claims (each with different remedies and filing deadlines), rendered managers and supervisors personally liable for discrimination, and omitted any filing prerequisites with the state civil rights agency.
The start of 2021, however, provides Ohio businesses much needed reform of this previously broken law. Earlier this week, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 352. Among its key reforms, H.B. 352:
• Creates a universal two-year statute of limitations for all employment discrimination claims.
• Requires individuals to file an administrative charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit.
• Unifies the filing of age discrimination claims to the same procedures and remedies as all other protected classes.
• Eliminates individual statutory liability for managers and supervisors.
• Caps noneconomic and punitive damages based on the size of the employer.
• Establishes an affirmative defense to hostile workplace sexual harassment claims that did not result in an adverse, tangible employment action, when 1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct the alleged unlawful discriminatory practice or harassing behavior, and 2) the employee failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to otherwise avoid the alleged harm.
This law fixes a broken system. Ohio’s prior employment discrimination statute was so different from both its federal counterpart and the similar laws of other states that it placed Ohio at a competitive business disadvantage. By paralleling much of the federal employment discrimination statutes, H.B. 352 restores balance and predictability for Ohio employers, while, at the same time, preserving the crucial rights of employees to be free from discrimination in the workplace.
If you have questions about what these important changes mean for your business, or require a review of your anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies in light of these changes, please contact any Meyers Roman employment lawyer: