Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine signed H.B. 352 into law earlier this year and it went into effect April 15th, 2021. Also known as the Employment Law Uniformity Act, it will enact broad changes to how employment discrimination claims are handled in Ohio. The legislation is meant to improve the business climate in Ohio, as well as draw more investment into the state.
Smaller caseload- One big change that H.B. 352 implements is that plaintiffs with discrimination claims will first go to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission instead of going right to court. This will help lessen the burden the employer usually faces when having to deal with court battles and hearings with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
Statute of Limitations amended- Before H.B. 352, an employee had up to six years to pursue a civil claim for discrimination and 180 days to go before the Civil Rights Commission. Now, a two-year statute of limitations applies to all charges filed with the commission and civil lawsuits. The new law tolls the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits until the Civil Rights Commission completes its investigation. This will ease the recordkeeping burdens that businesses often carry and will create more reliable witnesses, as they will have a fresher memory of the event if it only happened within the last couple of years.
Affirmative defense- H.B. 352 codifies the federal Faragher-Ellerth Defense. According to Thomson Reuters Practical Law, this is an affirmative defense employers can use to defend against claims of hostile work environment harassment if: No tangible adverse employment action was taken against the plaintiff, the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior and the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to otherwise avoid harm by, for example, not taking advantage of reporting procedures outlined in an anti-harassment policy.
What Does This Mean for Ohio Business Owner?
If you are a business owner, update your human resources department about the new law. If a former employee or current employee accuses you of discrimination, make sure to tell your IT department or employee to retain all communications and emails having to do with the subject of the lawsuit. Furthermore, make sure to hire experienced representation, like Lei Jiang Law Firm, as we are well versed in labor and employment disputes. If you have such an issue, please contact us at (440) 835-2271.