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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.

The Masks Are Back: New OSHA Regulations for Healthcare Employers

Employment Law After Hours is back with a News Break Episode. Yesterday, OSHA published new rules for healthcare facilities, including hospitals, home health employers, nursing homes, ambulance companies, and assisted living facilities. These new rules are very cumbersome, requiring mask wearing for all employees, even those that are vaccinated. The only exception is for fully vaccinated employees (2 weeks post final dose) who are in a "well-defined" area where there is no reasonable expectation that any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be present.

New OSHA Guidance for Workplaces Not Covered by the Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard

On June 10, 2021, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for occupational exposure to COVID-19, but it applies only to healthcare and healthcare support service workers. For a detailed summary of the ETS applicable to the healthcare industry, please visit https://youtu.be/vPyXmKwOzsk. All employers not subject to the ETS should review OSHA’s contemporaneously released, updated Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. The new Guidance essentially leaves intact OSHA’s earlier guidance, but only for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers (“at-risk” meaning vaccinated or unvaccinated workers with immunocompromising conditions). For fully vaccinated workers, OSHA defers to CDC Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People, which advises that most fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, or local laws or individual business policies.

Employer Liability for COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects

As employers encourage or require employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, they should be aware of OSHA recording obligations and potential workers’ compensation liability. Though OSHA has yet to revise its COVID-19 guidance in response to the latest CDC recommendations, OSHA has revised its position regarding the recording of injury or illness resulting from the vaccine. Until now, OSHA required an employer to record an adverse reaction when the vaccine was required for employees and the injury or illness otherwise met the recording criteria (work-related, a new case, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria). OSHA has reversed course and announced that it will not require recording adverse reactions until at least May 2022, irrespective of whether the employer requires the vaccine as a condition of employment. In its revised COVID-19 FAQs, OSHA states:

The New Rule 1.510 - Radical Change for Summary Judgement Procedure in Florida

In civil litigation, where both sides participate actively, trial is usually required at the end of a long, expensive case to determine a winner and a loser. In federal and most state courts, however, there are a few procedural shortcuts by which parties can seek to prevail in advance of trial, saving time, money and annoyance. The most common of these is the “motion for summary judgment”: a request to the court by one side for judgment before trial, generally on the basis that the evidence available reflects that a win for that party is legally inevitable and thus required. Effective May 1, 2021, summary judgment procedure in Florida has radically changed.

Vacating, Modifying or Correcting an Arbitration Award Under R.C. 2711.13: Three-Month Limitation Maximum; Not Guaranteed Amount of Time

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that neither R.C. 2711.09 nor R.C. 2711.13 requires a court to wait three months after an arbitration award is issued before confirming the award. R.C. 2711.13 provides that “after an award in an arbitration proceeding is made, any party to the arbitration may file a motion in the court of common pleas for an order vacating, modifying, or correcting the award.” Any such motion to vacate, modify, or correct an award “must be served upon the adverse party or his attorney within three months after the award is delivered to the parties in interest.” In BST Ohio Corporation et al. v. Wolgang, the Court held the three-month period set forth in R.C. 2711.13 is not a guaranteed time period in which to file a motion to vacate, modify, or correct an arbitration award. 2021-Ohio-1785.