February 3, 2021
Cathy Kelaghan

On January 12, 2021, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the Employment Law Uniformity Act (the “Act”).  The Act takes effect on April 15, 2021 and applies to discrimination claims filed on or after that date under Ohio’s employment anti-discrimination laws.

The Act amends the procedures for filing claims and provides uniformity by aligning Ohio’s procedures with the procedures under federal anti-discrimination laws.  Employees will now have to exhaust administrative remedies with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission before filing a lawsuit.  Additionally, the statute of limitations for employment discrimination actions is reduced from six years to two years.  The Act also removes personal liability for managers and supervisors, unless such individual is found to be acting outside the scope of his/her employment, retaliated against the employee, or engaged in discriminatory practices.

The Act contains two more procedural changes.  First, the Act provides an affirmative defense in hostile work environment harassment claims if the employer can prove the following:  it had an effective harassment policy; it trained employees on the policy; it exercised reasonable care to prevent or promptly correct harassment; and the employee did not take advantage of the employer’s preventive or corrective opportunities.  Finally, the Act aligns the procedural requirements for filing age discrimination with all other protected classes.  Age claims will now be subject to the same two-year statute of limitations and the exhaustion of administrative remedies, which is consistent will all other discrimination claims.              

These procedural changes to Ohio’s employment anti-discrimination laws simplify and clarify these laws and will be welcome changes to employers.