April 15, 2021

The enactment of Ohio’s Employment Law Uniformity Act (“Act”) on April 15, 2021 has resulted in hundreds of new employment discrimination claims being filed in Ohio courts in recent days. In fact, on April 13, 2021, 63 new cases were filed in area courts, and 44 of those cases were filed in Cuyahoga County alone. Prior to the Act, an average of three employment cases were filed a day. This move is largely due to the reduction in the statute of limitations for filing employment discrimination claims in the state. The Act reduces the statute of limitations for filing employment discrimination claims in Ohio from six years to two years. A full summary of the key takeaways of the Act is below.

As the number of claims significantly increase, employers should be prepared and proactively seek well-qualified counsel to handle these claims. The employment litigation attorneys at Walter | Haverfield are highly skilled and experienced in representing Ohio employers who are faced with employment discrimination claims. If you have questions about your obligations under the Act or have been named as a defendant in an employment-related case, please reach out to us here. We have a team ready and able to assist you.

Key takeaways of Ohio’s Employment Law Uniformity Act:

  • Statute of limitations. For more than 20 years, Ohio has maintained one of the longest statute of limitations in the country for filing employment discrimination claims. The Act reduces the statute of limitation for civil workplace discrimination causes of action to two years.
  • Exhaust Administrative Remedies. The Act now requires employees to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a civil action alleging employment discrimination. This means employees must first file a Charge of Discrimination (“Charge”) with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and exhaust their administrative remedies before filing suit. This requirement does not apply to an individual requesting injunctive relief from an unlawful discriminatory practice. This process will give employers and employees a chance to resolve claims before resorting to litigation. The Act also amends the statute of limitations for filing a Charge with the OCRC from 180 days to two years, creating a uniform statute of limitations for administrative charges and civil actions.
  • Removes Supervisor Liability, with Exceptions. The Act also largely eliminates individual manager and supervisor liability, which was established in 1999 by the Ohio Supreme Court in Genaro v. Cent. Transport, Inc.  The Act, however, does not remove individual liability in circumstances where the supervisor or manager is the employer, acted outside the scope of their employment, or retaliated against an employee for engaging in protected activity.
  • Affirmative Defense. The Act establishes an affirmative defense to hostile work environment sexual harassment claims where no tangible employment action was taken if the employer: (1) had an effective harassment policy in place; (2) properly educated employees about the policy and complaint procedures; (3) exercised reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct the harassing behavior; and (4) the employee alleging the hostile work environment unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer. This legal principle, commonly referred to as the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense, was established by United States Supreme Court in 1998 and will now expressly apply to claims brought under Ohio Revised Code 4112.
  • Age Discrimination. Under the previous law, employees had multiple avenues to file age discrimination claims.  The Act now provides one avenue for age discrimination claims, which must be filed within two years.

Sara Ravas Cooper is a partner with Walter | Haverfield’s Litigation and Labor & Employment groups. She can be reached at scooper@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2898.

Christine Cossler is a partner at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on education law. She can be reached at ccossler@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2946.

Mark Fusco is partner  at Walter | Haverfield who focuses his practice on litigation and labor and employment law. He can be reached at mfusco@walterhav.com or at 216-619-7839.

Eric Johnson is chair of the Labor and Employment Group at Walter | Haverfield. He also focuses on school law. Eric can be reached at ejohnson@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2890.

Rina Russo is a partner at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on labor and employment law. She can be reached at rrusso@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2928.

Elizabeth Bolduc is an associate at Walter | Haverfield who focuses her practice on labor and employment law. She can be reached at ebolduc@walterhav.com or at 216-658-6218.