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What You Need to Know About Workplace Discrimination Laws


During 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed 2,274 charges for employment discrimination in Ohio. Far more workers and job applicants suffered from discrimination, however. The EEOC handles most such cases, but it is not the only federal or state agency that does so. Additionally, 75 percent or more of the discriminatory actions taken by employers go unreported.

One reason so many victims of workplace discrimination do not file complaints is that discriminatory motives for what Columbus employee rights lawyers call adverse employment actions go unspoken or get expressed in coded language. For instance, a subtle method many employers use to engage in discrimination against older workers involves writing job ads that include phrases like “cutting edge” or “energetic.” Such terms suggest that younger applicants are sought.

Workplace Discrimination may also lead an employer to

  • Decide not to hire or promote a qualified individual,
  • Set unrealistic performance goals,
  • Target certain individuals for harsh discipline while allowing other people to break the same rules without experiencing consequences,
  • Subject people to harassment,
  • Layoff or fire someone without having a solid reason for doing so, or
  • Refusing to recall a laid-off worker while welcoming back other employees.

Who Has Legal Protections Against Workplace Discrimination?

A number of federal and state laws define so-called “protected classes” of employees and jobseekers. U.S. laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans With Disability Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protect people from discrimination based on their

  • Race,
  • Skin color,
  • National origin,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Pregnancy and recent childbirth.
  • Disability,
  • Age when older than 40,
  • Citizenship status, and
  • Genetic information.

Ohio statutes follow the U.S. Code very closely, but it is worth noting that state-based claims of workplace discrimination can be filed in relation to

  • Race,
  • Skin color,
  • National origin,
  • Ancestry,
  • Religion,
  • Sex,
  • Pregnancy and recent childbirth,
  • Disability,
  • Age when older than 40,
  • Military status, and
  • Caring for a parent, child, sibling, or spouse who was injured while serving in the military.

The cities of Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo also have local ordinances that prohibit workplace discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Note, too, that for the purposes of federal and workplace discrimination laws, classes such as race and religion include people of all races and religions. The legal protections are not reserved for people from specific racial groups or faith traditions.

What Is the Process for Filing a Claim for Workplace Discrimination?

The EEOC process—which is the one most people follow and which serves as a model for the process used by the Ohio Civil rights Commission—starts with the victim of workplace discrimination making a formal complaint to their employer. The report can go to a human resources representative or a trusted manager or supervisor. Receiving the complaint legally obligates the employer to conduct a good-faith investigation into the problem.

The next step involves the employer working with the parties involved in the complaint to resolve the problem. The victim of discrimination can then take their complaint to the EEOC if any of the following situations develop:

  • The employer does not conduct an investigation,
  • The investigation is conducted sloppily or unfairly,
  • No action is taken to resolve the problem, or
  • The action taken fails to prevent the problem from recurring.

The EEOC will then conduct its own investigation. Depending on what the commission finds, it can dismiss the complaint, ask the employer to implement another solution, issue a letter authorizing the victim to sue their employer, or sue the employer on the victim’s behalf.

Winning an workplace discrimination lawsuit allows the victim to receive monetary damages, past and future wages (sometimes with interest), attorney fees, and, when appropriate and requested, reinstatement to their previous position. A ruling against an employer may also include court orders to change and document its policies and practices to ensure other workers do not suffer discrimination.

How to Get Help From an Attorney With Your Workplace Discrimination Lawsuit

Any person who thinks they have suffered workplace discrimination has an undeniable right to seek advice and representation from an employment discrimination lawyer. It can help to speak with an attorney before filing an official complaint with an employer because the lawyer will be able to offer an opinion on whether a problem could potentially merit filing a lawsuit. The attorney can also help with gathering evidence and drafting a letter that states the complaint. At Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP, we partner with workers all across Ohio to combat workplace discrimination and to hold employers accountable for illegal employment practices. You can schedule a free and confidential consultation online or call us at (614) 221-4221.

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