Your Questions Answered by an Experienced Columbus Employment Discrimination Attorneys

Below are answers to some of the questions we hear most often at Coffman Legal as we help workers throughout Ohio after they suffer unlawful employment discrimination at work. If you have other questions or need help with an employment discrimination claim, call Coffman Legal at 614-949-1181 for a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Columbus employment discrimination attorneys.

How do I file a discrimination claim?

In most cases, you have the option of filing a charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The OCRC accepts charges online, by mail or in person. The EEOC does not take charges online; you can file by mail or at the EEOC offices in Cleveland or Cincinnati. The OCRC covers employment discrimination at workplaces with as few as four employees, in contrast to the EEOC, which covers employers with 20 or more employees. To file with the Ohio agency, you must file within 180 days of the discrimination. At the federal level, you have up to 300 days to file. If you file with the OCRC, you’ll have the option of accepting voluntary mediation. Otherwise, the Commission may take up to a year to conduct a full investigation. They may tell the employer how to resolve the complaint, which is known as conciliation. If not resolved, the OCRC may hold a mini hearing to determine probable cause to believe discrimination occurred before proceeding to an official hearing. In general, you have a year from the discrimination to file a lawsuit in Ohio state courts. If you file with the EEOC, they may take up to 180 days to investigate. They may decide to pursue the matter against the employer, or they may issue you a right to sue letter. After you receive that letter, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. You must have Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC to sue for disability discrimination under ADA Title I, and you have 90 days to file after receiving the notice. For cases based on the Equal Pay Act, you can go straight to court without filing a charge with the EEOC.

What is the difference between “quid pro quo” and “hostile environment” sexual harassment?

Both forms of sexual harassment are unlawful. “Quid pro quo” means that favorable or unfavorable job treatment was conditioned on your response to sexual advances by a supervisor, manager, business owner or some other authority figure in the company. For instance, you could have been promised a raise or a plum assignment for agreeing to sleep with the boss, or you could have been demoted, transferred or fired after refusing to go on a date with a supervisor. “Hostile work environment” sexual harassment refers to unwelcome sexual conduct that is so severe and pervasive that the workplace becomes hostile, threatening or intimidating. Not only must you feel that the environment is hostile, but this feeling must be reasonable. In other words, a reasonable person in these circumstances would also have felt there was a hostile environment. Actions that can create a hostile environment can include being ogled, groped or fondled; being told dirty jokes or sexually suggestive remarks about your body or others, the presence of sexual graffiti or pornographic pictures, etc.

What counts as an “adverse employment action” for the purposes of employment discrimination?

What counts as an “adverse employment action” for the purposes of employment discrimination?

Can I be fired for no reason?

If you are an “at-will” employee, then you can be fired at any time, and your employer does not have to give you a reason. Most employers, however, will give you a reason why you are being fired. When they don’t, it is sometimes because they are unlawfully discriminating against you, and they don’t have a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for firing you. If you’ve been terminated for no apparent reason, call Coffman Legal to discuss whether your firing may have been illegal. Unless you are a government employee, are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, or have a contract for employment, you are most likely an at-will employee.

Can a job interviewer ask me if I plan on getting pregnant?

That question is illegal under Ohio law. Employers cannot ask you if you are pregnant or if you are planning to have children at any time. They also cannot ask you if you are married or plan on getting married. Interviewers also cannot try to get these answers indirectly, such as by asking for your maiden name or height and weight.

Can a job interviewer ask me how old I am?

This question is illegal under Ohio law. Employers also cannot try to get this information indirectly by asking questions such as when you graduated high school or when you plan to retire. They also should not request documents that include your date of birth, such as your driver’s license, prior to making an offer of employment. Individuals aged 40 and older are protected from discrimination based on age. Employers can ask if you are eighteen years old or older, and they can ask for your birthdate after making an offer of employment contingent on passing a background check.

What is a BFOQ?

BFOQ stands for Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. There are some situations where hiring a person of a certain age, a certain sex or a certain religion is considered a BFOQ. In those limited situations, discriminating against a person based on age, sex or religion might not be unlawful. If the job contains a BFOQ, this fact should be stated in the job announcement or advertisement. Some employers might make up a BFOQ as an excuse to discriminate, so it’s important to review the BFOQ with our experienced Ohio discrimination attorneys if you have doubts about the requirement.

How long do employment & discrimination cases take to litigate and settle?

There are a lot of factors that affect how quickly employment & discrimination cases are resolved. In some situations, employment cases are settled before a lawsuit is filed. The parties can mediate employment disputes with the EEOC or through private mediation. In other situations, settlements occur only after a lawsuit has been filed and litigated for a significant time. Our employment attorneys will work to resolve your claims expeditiously, but only to the extent that your employer is reasonable.

Does your firm represent companies as well as employees?

No. Our firm focuses only on representing employees. We feel it is important to our mission to provide legal representation to workers who experience mistreatment by your employer. Therefore, we dedicate all of our efforts to recovering monies to wronged employees

Does your firm sue public entities or just private companies?

We generally focus on disputes against private employers rather than public entities. However, we are generally willing to speak with any employee to determine if we are willing to accept their case. We offer free consultations because each potential case or dispute is different and important.

If I become a client, how much will the attorney cost?

We generally represent clients on contingency fees – meaning we do not receive any compensation unless we recover money. Individuals who have suffered a workplace issue are generally without employment or have otherwise not been fully compensated. The vast majority of the employment laws provide for the recovery of attorneys’ fees and costs to ensure that employees receive competent representation regardless of their ability to afford an employment attorney. This allows us to provide diligent represent individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford costly legal representation.

What if your firm does not take my case?

Unfortunately, we cannot help every individual who contacts our employment law firm for numerous reasons. First, there are only a small number of laws that protect employees from unlawful actions by their employers. Although we often disagree with employers’ actions and believe they are wrong, employers’ actions are not always unlawful. Second, at times we are unable to take every possible case because we have to ensure that we have the appropriate time to provide zealous and first-rate representation to our current clients. Finally, there could be countless other reasons that we may not agree to take your case. However, you will not owe our firm any fee for the free consultation and we will often provide a suggestion for another firm if we feel that there might be a good alternative.

I was just fired – how do I know if it was a wrongful termination?

You won’t know until you have a free consultation with one of our employment attorneys. Our employment attorneys are here to speak with you and to provide a comprehensive consultation to determine if you were wrongfully terminated, among other things. During a consultation our employment lawyers will gather certain details of your employment to determine whether we believe that you were terminated for an unlawful reason, such as employment discrimination, retaliation, or some other basis.

What is retaliation and how do I know when if employer has retaliated against me?

Employment retaliation is when your employer takes an adverse employment action, such as demotion, cut in pay, termination, etc, in response to a protected activity. Only certain actions by employees constitute protected activities. If an employee takes actions which constitute protected activities, the employer cannot retaliate with an adverse employment action. If you have questions about employment retaliation, you should contact our employment lawyers.

How do I know if my employer is discriminating against me for my disability?

Employers may unlawfully discriminate against employees with disabilities. A consultation with one of our employment discrimination attorneys will help you to identify discriminatory conduct. Individuals with disabilities are qualified if they can perform the essential functions with their job with or without accommodations. Employers may unlawfully discriminate against a qualified individual by not providing reasonable accommodations or by treating them less favorably than nondisabled employees. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your disability contact our disability discrimination lawyers for a free consultation.

I am on maternity leave and I found out my employer replaced me, is there anything I can do?

Absolutely. We are here to protect new mothers from discrimination because of their pregnancy or if they experience FMLA interference or retaliation. A new mother is entitled to 12 weeks of job protected leave under the FMLA assuming that they meet certain eligibility requirements and their employers are of ample size. In addition, our discrimination attorneys will protect you to the extent that you employer discriminates based on your pregnancy. Contact our FMLA lawyers and pregnancy discrimination attorneys today if you have questions about your rights to leave and job protection.

How do I know if I am working in a hostile work environment?

The best way to know if you have a legal claim for a hostile work environment is if you speak with one of our employment attorneys. Many employees believe that they are working in a hostile work environment because of the hostility they experience at work, but not all hostility constitutes a hostile work environment. Our employment lawyers will assess whether you have a cognizable claim for hostile work environment and will advise you of your rights.

Contact Coffman Legal Today

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