Representative Bill Seitz recently introduced a bill in the Ohio General Assembly that, if enacted, will bring significant changes to Ohio’s workplace discrimination laws. The most notable changes in House Bill 2 (H.B.2) are as follows:
- Shortened Statute of Limitations. H.B.2 will shorten the applicable statute of limitations for discrimination lawsuits under O.R.C. 4112 to one year. Currently, Ohio courts permit lawsuits filed as much as six years after the alleged discriminatory conduct. This is significantly longer than the limitations period under federal law and similar laws in other states.
- Elimination of Supervisor Liability. Section 4112 of the Ohio Revised Code currently permits a plaintiff to sue “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer” for alleged discrimination. This may include the plaintiff’s supervisor, a human resources official, or any other person that the plaintiff believes participated in wrongful conduct. H.B.2 will eliminate individual liability for such persons, bringing Ohio law into conformity with federal workplace discrimination law.
- Limitation of Concurrent Separate Procedures. H.B.2 will preclude the filing of a lawsuit during the pendency of a complaint before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) based upon the same alleged practices, and also precludes filing an OCRC action while a lawsuit is pending arising from the same purported facts. H.B.2 also provides that the statute of limitations is tolled while an OCRC action is pending.
- Consolidation of Age Discrimination Actions. There are currently three avenues for a plaintiff to bring an age-based employment discrimination suit, with potentially different limitations periods. H.B.2 establishes that age discrimination will be treated the same as other employment discrimination lawsuits, and subject to the same one-year limitations period.
- Availability of Affirmative Defense. H.B.2 will provide a defense in sexual harassment lawsuits to employers who have active anti-harassment and reporting measures in place. This defense, known as an affirmative defense, may preclude liability if the plaintiff does not suffer adverse job actions, e.g. demotion, termination or lower pay, as a result of the alleged harassment.
Max Dehn represents clients in business litigation matters, and provides counsel with respect to employment practices. Max also co-chairs the monthly Cavitch Employment Law Luncheon with Shareholder Doug DiPalma.