Ohio's Employment Law Uniformity Act Is Now In Effect

Date: April 15, 2021

House Bill (HB) 352, the Employment Law Uniformity Act, passed the Ohio House of Representatives on November 19, 2020, on a vote of 76-13, passed the Ohio Senate, after receding on their amendments on December 22, 2020, on a vote of 30-1, and was signed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in January 2021 took effect on April 15, 2021.

HB 352 applies to any discrimination claims filed on or after that date. HB 352 was sponsored by Representatives Jon Cross (R – Findlay) and fellow NFIB member George Lang (R – Liberty Township). NFIB was a proponent of HB 352 and key voted the bill in the 133rd Ohio General Assembly.

Given the changes made in HB 352 it may be a good time to speak to your attorney about your employment practices as the bill makes significant changes to Ohio’s employment discrimination laws.  There are several key provisions from NFIB’s perspective.

First, is the reduction in the statute of limitations from six years (currently the longest in the nation) down to two years.  This reduction will still allow a year longer than what is permitted under federal law. 

The second key provision requires individuals to first file with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and exhaust that process before filing a lawsuit.  This prevents small business owners from having to potentially address a complaint at both the OCRC and the court of common pleas. 

Third, HB 352 also addresses supervisor liability, creating a process that still allows for individual supervisors to be sued but ensures the ability to do their jobs unless they act outside the scope of their employment, retaliate against the employee, or otherwise personally engage in discrimination.

Additionally, the Act offers a statutory affirmative defense to employers for hostile work environment claims, provided that they have anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures, and employees have received training on those. Ohio age discrimination statutes are streamlined by eliminating two alternate methods of bringing those claims.

HB 352, the Employment Law Uniformity Act, offers more certainty and uniformity for both employers and employees when it comes to employment discrimination claims as it aligns Ohio procedures with federal law and clarifies these provisions in state statutes.

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