The federal government moved dramatically to combat discrimination in employment with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Five years earlier, the Ohio Civil Rights Act erected the framework for combating discrimination in the state.
In the years since, both pieces of legislation have been broadened through the enactment of further laws and by court decisions. Most notably, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020 ruled that the use of the word “sex” in the Civil Rights Act also includes gender identity and sexual orientation.
In Ohio, the Civil Rights Act initially covered only places of public accommodation, but through the years was expanded to cover almost all businesses in the state based on the number of employees.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulates and enforces the Civil Rights Act and subsequent anti-discrimination statutes. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) carries out similar functions in the state.
If you or a loved one has been discriminated against in employment or in applying for a job in or around Akron, Ohio, contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III to initiate a complaint and seek resolution.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created protected classes of individuals based on characteristics they shared. These protected classes were based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Subsequent laws expanded protections based on pregnancy, genetic history, veteran status, age (40 and up), and disability.
Sex originally was interpreted as one’s natural gender, male or female. As the nation became more diverse and aware, the issue of what constitutes sex when it comes to discrimination surged to the forefront.
In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court took up three cases involving employees who faced discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. All were eventually terminated.
The court ruled succinctly: “The statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.” The rights of the LGBTQ+ community thus fell under the protection of the Civil Rights Act and the enforcement powers of the EEOC.
In the cases taken up by the Supreme Court, the three individuals were terminated from their employment, but discrimination is much broader than that. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) echoes the EEOC when it states that discriminatory actions include, among others:
Job advertisements – Do they limit who can apply?
The hiring process – Is an applicant excluded for an illegal reason?
Terms and conditions of work – Are all employees treated equally?
Harassment – Are certain individuals treated adversely because of personal characteristics?
Discipline – Is someone in a protected class subjected to different standards at work?
Layoff/recall – When a company downsizes and later recalls workers, are protected individuals singled out?
Promotion/demotion – Are certain individuals denied promotional opportunities or even demoted because of personal characteristics?
Termination – Are certain individuals terminated because of personal characteristics?
As you can see from this list, discrimination extends beyond just hiring and firing decisions and can include how an employee is treated at work.
Employees are also protected from harassment, which can include being subject to taunts or abuse based on one’s personal characteristics, as well as being threatened, insulted, berated, or cursed out, whether in public or private. Harassment can originate from both supervisors and coworkers, but the employer is obligated to both prevent and correct harassment if it occurs.
Retaliation is also protected by state and federal law. If an employee files a claim of discrimination with the EEOC or OCRC and is then retaliated against, that is an illegal act. Retaliation can take many forms beyond termination. Being isolated from others, having one’s hours changed to make life miserable, being denied benefits or promotional opportunities, and being subjected to suddenly unfavorable performance reviews all constitute retaliation.
Both the EEOC and the OCRC accept complaints from employees in Ohio. In the past, the OCRC allowed aggrieved employees to skip filing a complaint and go straight to filing a lawsuit, but with the enactment of the Employment Law Uniformity Act (EULA) in 2021, that is no longer the case. Both the federal agency and the state watchdog now require that you file a charge with them first. They will then investigate and seek to resolve matters and eventually may grant you a “right to sue” notice.
Since the EEOC and OCRC carry out basically the same function, you may wonder where to file your complaint. One answer is that the laws the EEOC enforces apply only to businesses with 15 or more employees (20 for age discrimination), while the threshold in Ohio is just four employees. Being a nationwide agency, the EEOC is also going to be handling many more claims at any one time than the OCRC.
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III. Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III can help you file your claim and protect your rights while your claim is being investigated. His firm proudly serves clients in and around Akron, Ohio, as well as Cleveland, Hudson, Canton, and Lorain. Reach out immediately.