Ohio Employment Discrimination FAQs
Your Questions Answered by an Experienced Columbus Employment Discrimination Attorney
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 attorney.
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?
Any adverse employment action taken on account of your race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age or disability is unlawful employment discrimination. An adverse employment action can be any act that causes economic harm, such as a demotion, termination, layoff, suspension, reduction in hours, reduction in pay, failure to hire or failure to promote. However, adverse employment actions do not necessarily have to cause economic harm. Other examples of adverse employment actions include discipline, negative performance evaluations, unpopular work schedules or assignments, or transfer to a less desirable work area.
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 an experienced Ohio discrimination attorney if you have doubts about the requirement.