Q: What is the Ohio Civil Rights Commission?
A: The Commission is a state agency that investigates most forms of discrimination, including:
* public accommodation; and
* higher education (but only on account of disability).
The Commission’s main office is located in Columbus.
Q: What are the benefits of filing a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission?
A: The Commission:
* does not cost anything;
* will investigate all cases in which it has jurisdiction;
* has representatives who will help you prepare your charge.
While it may be helpful or advisable to have your own attorney, you are not required to have an attorney when filing with the Commission.
Q: If I file with the Commission, does this mean I cannot go to court?
A: Except in age discrimination in employment cases, going to the Commission does not foreclose going to court at a later date or even going to court at the same time. The courts can give more relief in employment cases than the Commission including punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and money for mental anguish.
Under current law, the Commission can award the following for employment cases:
* back pay;
* compensation for lost benefits;
* a job that was denied for discriminatory reasons;
* job reinstatement;
* job promotion;
* expungement (removal) of any disciplinary actions from employment records if discipline was a result of discriminatory behavior;
* a requirement that employer must implement equal opportunity training and complaint programs.
Q: I wish to file a discrimination-in-employment charge under Ohio law. What must I do?
A: You must:
* file the charge with the OCRC within six months of the discriminatory act;
* provide contact information for yourself and your employer;
* provide a description of the discrimination. This description should include the date on which the act of discrimination occurred and whether the discrimination was based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability, or involved retaliation for previously opposing or reporting discrimination.
Q: What does the Commission do with the charge once it is received?
A: The Commission investigates and issues a finding which is either:
* “no probable cause,” which means that the evidence is insufficient to substantiate a charge of discrimination; or
* “probable cause,” which means that the evidence is sufficient to substantiate a charge of discrimination.
Q: What does the Commission do if there is probable cause?
A: If there is no settlement, the Commission files a formal complaint and schedules a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. An assistant attorney general is assigned to prosecute the case for the Commission.
Q: What happens if the six months have lapsed? Is there some other way a discrimination charge can still be filed?
A: Yes. There is a parallel federal agency called the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has offices in Cleveland and Cincinnati, and which processes claims of discrimination under federal law. Federal law permits charges to be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of a discriminatory act.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. This article was prepared by Fred Gittes, partner in the Columbus firm, the Gittes Law Group, and updated with help from Jeffrey Vardaro of the same firm.