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Ohio Enacts Substantial Changes to Employment Discrimination Laws

In January, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law the Employment Law Uniformity Act, amending the employment protections in the Ohio Civil Rights Act in several significant ways. Such changes to the state’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws have been considered and debated for years and finally made their way into Ohio law.

What has changed for employment claims under the amended Ohio Civil Rights Act?

  • Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations for employment discrimination claims has been reduced from 6 to 2 years, bringing Ohio in line with federal law.
  • Administrative Remedies: Prior to filing suit in court alleging employment discrimination, individuals must first exhaust administrative remedies by filing a charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and obtaining a right-to-sue-letter. Filing a charge tolls the statute of limitations during pendency and for 60 days after closure of the charge. The deadline to file a charge has been expanded from 180 days to 2 years after the alleged discrimination.
  • Supervisor Liability: Personal liability for supervisors, managers, and coworkers for discrimination or harassment has been eliminated except in limited circumstances. This brings state law more in line with federal and will likely curtail a very common practice by plaintiffs' attorneys in Ohio of suing supervisors in their individual capacity.
  • Sexual Harassment Defense: The employer’s affirmative defense for sexual harassment claims has been codified and mirrors the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense established by the U.S. Supreme Court and already recognized by Ohio courts. An employer may assert an affirmative defense against hostile work environment sexual harassment claims if it had anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures in place, and the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of them. This defense is not available if the harassment was committed by a supervisor and also resulted in a tangible employment action such as firing, demotion, etc.
  • Age Discrimination: The Employment Law Uniformity Act has also simplified the tangled web of age discrimination claims that existed in Ohio, which had varying statutes of limitations, administrative exhaustion requirements, and remedies. The characteristics of age discrimination claims have been harmonized with other employment claims under the Ohio Civil Rights Act.

When do the changes go into effect?

  • The Employment Law Uniformity Act becomes effective April 15, 2021.

What actions should employers take now?

  • The most important thing Ohio employers need to do as a result of these amendments is review their policies and procedures to ensure that they have anti-harassment provisions and reporting procedures in place and provide training to their employees. Effective policies, procedures, and training can help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, ensure prompt action when a complaint arises, and mitigate liability if legal action ensues.  

The Labor and Employment team at BMD is available to assist if you have questions related to these important developments. For more information, please contact Employment and Labor Law Attorney Russell Rendall at 216.658.2205 or rtrendall@bmdllc.com.

Protections Under Federal and Ohio Law for Bona Fide Prospective Purchasers of Contaminated Property

Most industrial/commercial property developers are generally aware of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), often also referred to as “Superfund”. CERCLA, a United Stated federal law administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was created, in part, because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized that environmental cleanup could help promote reuse or redevelopment of contaminated, potentially contaminated, and formerly contaminated properties, helping revitalize communities that may have been adversely affected by the presence of the contaminated properties. Commercial property developers should be aware that CERCLA provides for some important liability limitations for landowners that own contaminated property impacted by materials hazardous to the environment. It can also assist with landowners concerned about the potential liabilities stemming from the presence of contamination to which they have not contributed. In particular, CERCLA provides important liability limitations for landowners that qualify as (1) bona fide prospective purchasers (BFPPS), (2) contiguous property owners, or (3) innocent landowners.

Puerto Rico Is Open For Business

Puerto Rico has the highest vaccination in the nation. More than 73% of the total population is fully vaccinated. The U.S. national average is just over 57%. The ports opened in June 2020 and San Juan held it first live concert this past summer. It is important to remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and there is no need for visas, the banking systems is almost identical to the mainland and the Island uses the U.S. postal service and U.S. dollar as its currency. There are thousands of flights from the U.S. to Puerto Rico daily and all main airlines fly to the Island.

Ohio Medical Board Changes Telemedicine Rules

A SCMS News Article by Scott Sandrock.

The Rising Threat from Insiders – Get Your House in Order

As its name implies, an ‘Insider Threat’ originates inside an organization. An ‘insider’ is any person who has or had authorized access to or knowledge of an organization’s resources, including personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks, and systems. ‘Insider threat’ can manifest from malicious, complacent, negligent or unintentional acts that negatively affect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the organization, its data, personnel, or facilities. Certainly, ‘Insider Threat’ can be an activity by a bad actor employee, but can also arise from an inadvertent or unknowing action inside an organization (such as an employee who unintentionally opens a phishing email or clicks on a malicious link).

In Cybersecurity– A Good Offense is the Best Defense

2021 has been a watershed moment for cybersecurity incidents as cybercrime has become a frequent headline and cyber criminals have thrived on unsuspecting and/or unprepared businesses and institutions. For example, the Solar Winds attack exposed sensitive data from top companies like Microsoft as well government agencies[1] and the Colonial Pipeline attack substantially disrupted the petroleum supply chain[2]. We have seen an almost 20% increase in data breaches and attacks since last year.