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Filing a Discrimination Claim – Ohio

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Ohio?

Ohio law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, age or ancestry.

Ohio law permits workers who win age discrimination cases to receive compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) and punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer), which are not allowed under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Ohio?

A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency.

The Ohio anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 4 and 14 employees, you may wish to file with the OCRC, as the EEOC enforces federal law which covers only employers with 15 or more employees.

Filing with the OCRC is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court. However, the opposite is true for age discrimination cases. That is, filing an age discrimination claim with the OCRC will prevent you from pursuing an Ohio age discrimination claim in court. Income cases, filing with the EEOC in Ohio will also prevent you from pursuing those age discrimination as well. This is known as Ohio’s age discrimination “election of remedies.” Therefore, be sure that you understand the consequences of electing to file with the OCRC or EEOC before you do so. If you do not have an attorney, however, you may wish to see whether the OCRC can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. OCRC complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

Some attorneys recommend, however, that if a lawyer is going to be pursuing a claim on your behalf, that you not file with the OCRC, because it is not required to pursue your claim in court, and courts are allowed to award certain types of monetary damages not allowed before the OCRC. If you wish to consult an attorney about taking your case, you should do so as early as possible, so that you do not miss your 180-day filing deadline in the event you need the OCRC’s assistance.

To file a claim with the OCRC, contact the nearest office below. More information about filing a claim with the OCRC can be found at http://crc.ohio.gov/.

Columbus–Central Office
1111 East Broad Street, 3rd Floor
Columbus, OH 43205
Phone: (614) 466-2785
Toll-Free: (888) 278-7101
Akron Regional Office
Akron Government Building – Suite 205
161 South High Street
Akron, OH 44308
Phone: (330) 643-3100
TTY: (330) 643-3100
Fax: (330) 643-3120
Counties served: Wayne, Summit, Stark, Portage, Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana, Knox, Holmes, Coshocton, Tuscarawas, Carroll, Jefferson, Harrison

Cincinnati Regional Office
Holiday Office Park
801-B West 8th Street, 2nd Floor
Cincinnati, Ohio 45203
Phone: (513) 852-3344
TTY: (513) 852-3344
Fax: (513) 852-3357
Counties served: Butler, Hamilton, Clermont, Clinton, Warren, Brown, Fayette, Highland, Adams, Pike, Scioto, Vinton, Jackson, Lawrence, Gallia, Meigs

Cleveland Regional Office
885 Lausche State Office Building
615 West Superior Avenue, 8th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
Phone: (216) 787-3150
TTY: (216) 787-3150
Fax: (216) 787-4121
Counties served: Lorain, Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Erie, Huron, Richland, Medina, Ashland

Columbus Regional Office
1111 East Broad Street, Suite 301
Columbus, OH 43205
Phone: (614) 466-5928
TTY: (614) 752-2391
Fax: (614) 466-6250
Counties Served: Franklin, Union, Madison, Delaware, Pickaway, Licking, Fairfield, Hocking, Muskingum, Perry, Athens, Morgan, Guernsey, Noble, Washington, Belmont, Monroe, Ross, Marion, MorrowDayton Regional Office
800 Miami Valley Tower
40 West 4th Street, Suite 800
Dayton, OH 45402
Phone: (937) 285-6500
TTY: (937) 285-6500
Fax: (937) 285-6606
Counties Served: Darke, Preble, Shelby, Miami, Montgomery, Logan, Champaign, Clark, Greene, Van Wert, Mercer, Allen, Auglaize, Hardin

Toledo Regional Office
One Government Center – Suite 936
Jackson and Erie Streets
Toledo, OH 43604
Phone: (419) 245-2900
TTY: (419) 245-2900
Fax: (419) 245-2668
Counties Served: Williams, Defiance, Paulding, Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Lucas, Wood, Hancock, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact the nearest local EEOC office. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC — Cincinnati Area Office
550 Main Street
Suite 10019
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Phone: (513) 684-2851
TTY: (513) 684-2074
EEOC — Cleveland District Office
1660 West Second Street
Suite 850
Cleveland, OH 44113-1454
Phone: (216) 522-2001
TTY: (216) 522-8441

3. What are my time deadlines?

If you choose to file a discrimination claim with one of these administrative agencies, do not delay in contacting the OCRC or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for the OCRC to act on your behalf, you must file with the OCRC (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or “ordinance.” Some cities and counties in Ohio have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the “Human Rights Commission,” “Human Relations Commission,” or the “Civil Rights Commission.” Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Ohio?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the OCRC or EEOC, and you may want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your claim. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to proceed with your state discrimination claim.

Because Ohio law does not limit the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) damages for a discrimination claim, many Ohio attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court under state law only; however, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court, using state or federal law.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161) before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.)

A lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim must be filed within 6 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against, except for age discrimination claims, which must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency dismissal letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.