March 27, 2017
On April 6, 2017, changes to the Ohio Revised Code § 4112.05, which governs the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”) procedures for investigations and resolving employment discrimination claims, will become effective.
The most important change creates the option for the OCRC to award reasonable attorney’s fees to a respondent (employer) found not to have engaged in an unlawful discriminatory practice. Specifically, if all the evidence presented at the hearing on the charge results in the OCRC's finding that the respondent has not engaged in any unlawful discriminatory practice against the complainant or others, the OCRC may award reasonable attorney’s fees to the respondent employer. Attorney’s fees already exist as a possible award for a claimant if the OCRC finds that discrimination has occurred.
These statutory changes also add alternative dispute resolution as an informal method of addressing discrimination claims, which may be initiated any time prior to a formal hearing. R.C. § 4112.05(A)(2). Before these changes, alternative dispute resolution had to be agreed upon by both parties and completed before the OCRC’s investigation into the charges.