Discrimination in the Workplace in Ohio

There are a wide range of Federal and State laws that protect employees from discrimination in the workplace.  These anti-discrimination laws prohibit an employer from making big employment related decisions based on the employee's status as a member in certain protected groups of people.  An employee may have a claim for employment discrimination if they are discriminated against through hiring, firing, promotions, pay increases, or the conditioning of certain terms and conditions of employment.

Reasonable Accomodations

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees whose religious beliefs or disabilities conflict with the conditions of employment.

Prohibited Discrimination

Generally, employers may discriminate for any reason other than an illegal reason (such as discrimination based on work performance, attitude, tardiness, etc.).  Here is a list of Federal laws and the type of discrimination they prohibit:
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
    • Prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, national origin, or religion
    • Sex discrimination prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, pregnancy, and sexual harassment
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of the employees disability.  This includes any actual diagnosed disabilities, prior disabilities, or even the employer's perception that a disability exists
    • Employers are required by the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, unless making such accommodation would constitute an undue hardship on the employer
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978
    • Prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy and its related conditions
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963
    • Requires employers to pay men and women equal pay for equal work
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
    • Prohibits discrimination against persons because of their service in the Armed Forces Reserve, the National Guard, or other uniformed services
    • Provides that employers must reserve the jobs of those uniformed service members who are called to military service
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
    • Protects workers 40 years of age and over
    • Prohibits employers from refusing to hire, fire, or otherwise discriminating against workers because of their age (over 40)

Ohio and Federal Wage and Hour Laws - An Overview

You have the right to be paid what you are supposed to be paid.  Sometimes this means that you should be getting paid for the small tasks that you do before you clock in for you shift and after you clock out.  Sometimes this means you are not getting paid for all of the overtime hours you should be getting paid for.  Sometimes this means that you should be getting paid the same amount as a member of the opposite sex or a different race who gets paid more than you.

Minimum Wage

In Ohio, you have the right to be paid on time, above minimum wage, and in the correct amount (with the number of hours and overtime hours included).

Ohio's minimum wage is currently $8.10 per hour and $4.05 per hour for tipped employees.  Ohio's minimum wage automatically increases each year with inflation.  If you are a tipped employee and make under $4.05 per hour or make under minimum wage when your tips do not put you over $8.10 per hour, you may have a claim for a wage and hour violation.

If your employer has violated the State or Federal wage and hour provisions, you may be entitled to up to twice the amount of withheld pay and the employer will be responsible for paying your attorneys fees.

Not Paid On Time

The Ohio Revised Code mandates that wages must be paid at least twice a month (Ohio Revised Code section 4113.15).  If the employer does not pay wages within 30 days of them being due, then the employee is entitled to 6% interest on the wages or $200, whichever is greater.  There are slightly different rules for employees working on commission.  If you have not been paid your wages on time, then contact an attorney to make sure you are paid what you are owed plus all the damages you are entitled to.

Overtime

Employees are entitled to overtime pay for every hour worked over 40 hours in one work week (or comp time for government employees).  There are exceptions to this rule depending on the specific type of tasks that you perform.  If you do not think you are being properly compensated for overtime, contact an attorney to make sure that (a) you are eligible for overtime, and (b) you receive all the compensation and damages you are entitled to.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

If you are being paid a different wage than another employee for a job that requires equal skill, effort, responsibility, and that is performed under similar conditions, then you may have a case for wage discrimination.

Ohio law prohibits discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or ancestry by paying wages to any employee at a rate less than the rate at which the employer pays wages to another employee for equal work (Ohio Revised Code section 4111.17).  

However, an employer will be able to defeat a wage discrimination claim by showing that the difference in pay was a result of:
  • A seniority system
  • Merit system
  • System that bases earnings by the quantity or quality of production
  • Or any factor other than race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or ancestry

Contact an Employment Law Attorney

If you think you have a case for a wage and hour violation, contact an attorney at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.  

Wrongful Termination Issues in Ohio

As a general rule - in Ohio, you can be fired at any time, for any reason - even if it is a bad reason, or no reason at all - so long as it is not an illegal reason.  Most employees are "at will" employees, subject to this general rule.  Unless you are a government employee, you have signed an employment contract, or you belong to a union, then you are an "at will" employee.

Government Employees

Government employees are not considered "at will" employees.  This is because the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from depriving any person from "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."  The courts have found that government employees have a "property" interest in their jobs, so their jobs cannot be terminated without "due process."  Due process in the termination process means different things in different contexts, but there are procedures that must be followed and there must be good reason for the termination.  Contact an attorney to find out if your termination from a government job was through due process.  

Employment Contracts

If you signed an employment contract with your employer, then this modifies the general rule of "at will" employment.  When you sign a contract, the language of the contract controls your employment relationship.  It is very fact specific in determining whether or not you have a case for wrongful termination when an employment contract is involved, because it depends on the exact language of your contact.  Therefore, it is critically important to get an employment attorney involved to look over your contract.  

Most employers do not hire employees through employment contracts, but most employers do give their employees an employee handbook.  Courts often find the language in an employee handbook to be an enforceable contract.  If the employee handbook lays out certain discipline and termination procedures then courts may hold the employer to those procedures.  However, most employers are privy to the enforceability of employee handbooks and provide a disclaimer in them to avoid their enforcement.  Again, it is important to have an employment attorney look over the handbook to determine if you were wrongfully discharged in violation of the procedures outlined in the employee handbook.

Discriminatory Firings

Employees are protected from being fired for discriminatory reasons through Federal law and State law.  These protective laws are as follows:
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits termination of an employee because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  
  • The Ohio Civil Rights Act, as codified in Ohio Revised Code section 4112.01, prohibits termination of an employee because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry.  
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1964 (ADEA) is a federal law that prohibits age discrimination in employment for individuals over 40 years of age.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity

Constructive Discharge

Most cases for wrongful termination require that the employee actually be fired.  However, there is a doctrine of law known as "Constructive Discharge," which provides that if an employer creates a work environment that is so hostile that an employee has no real alternative but to quit, then the employee's act of quitting can in effect be treated as a firing for wrongful termination purposes.

Remedies

There are a variety of possible remedies if you've been wrongfully terminated.  The remedy depends on what particular law your employer violated by committing a wrongful termination.  If you were discriminated against or terminated from your employment based on your race, color, religion, sex, or national origin then you have a choice to either bring a federal lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or to bring a state law claim under Ohio Revised Code 4112.  If you decide to go the federal lawsuit route, then you must first seek administrative remedies.  This means that you must first report your claim to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC will conduct their own investigation and deetermine whether or not there is probable cause that you were discriminated against, and if so, then they will give you a "right to sue" letter, after which you may bring a lawsuit.  If you decide to pursue your employer under the Ohio Civil Rigths Act (ORC 4112), then you could proceed immediately to a civil lawsuit.  

The types of remedies that you may be afforded can differ dramatically - but they range from reinstatement with back pay, lost wages, lost benefits, damages for emotional distress, recovery of attorneys fees, and more.

If you feel that you've been wrongfully terminated and would like to talk to an attorney about what happened to see whether or not you have a case, contact an attorney at Harris & Engler by calling (614) 610-9988.

An Overview on Ohio's Requirements in Hiring Employees

If your business is ready to hire employees, then you should consult with an attorney to make sure that you are in compliance with the following requirements in Ohio:
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS
    • This is needed when filing taxes
  • Submit a Summary of the Total Dollars Withheld for the prior year on a form W-2 by January 31st of each year to employees and the IRS
  • Submit a form W-3 for all employees to the Social Security Administration by February 28th of each year
  • Complete a Form I-9 for every employee hired
    • This is an employee eligibility verification (that the employee is an American citizen or eligible to work in the U.S.)
  • Report new hires to the Ohio New Hire Reporting Program
  • Must ensure that you are in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act wage and hour requirements
  • Must register with the Ohio Department of Taxation to withold employees Ohio income taxes from wages each pay period
  • Must pay Unemployment Contributions to the State of Ohio.
    • This support Ohio's system of unemployment compensation benefits
  • Must obtain Ohio Workers' Compensation coverage
  • Must comply with Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) regulations
    • Such as posting the "Fair Employment Practices" poster in a highly visible area in each workplace
    • For 4 or more workers
The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help businesses to get set up to hire employees among other business needs in Central Ohio.

If you Need Help Getting Your Business Set Up to Hire New Employees in Ohio, Contact Harris & Engler

The attorneys at Harris & Engler want your business to succeed and want to ensure that you are complying with Ohio's requirements for employers.  Contact an attorney to either make sure that you are in compliance or get set up by calling (614) 610-9988.

An Overview of the Advantages or Disadvantages of Hiring an Employee versus an Independent Contractor

If your business is expanding and you need to hire help, then you have a good problem!  Your next decision should be whether you should hire your new workers as employees or independent contractors.

Generally, bringing on new workers as employees is more expensive and time consuming for the employer; and bringing workers on as independent contractors is easier but poses some risks for your business.

One of the first things you should know is that regardless of whether you hire someone as an employee or independent contractor, the courts in Ohio and the IRS will look at how they are treated rather than what the paperwork says in coming to their own determination of whether the worker is an employee or independent contractor.  The IRS uses the following test, and you should also use this test in order to determine whether it makes sense for you to hire workers as employees or independent contractors.

The attorneys at Harris & Engler can help your business with its employment and expansion issues.  The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus Ohio, and its attorneys help businesses get properly set up for expansion, whether through hiring independent contractors or employees.  Call an attorney at Harris & Engler today by calling (614) 610-9988.

How to Choose Between Hiring an Employee or Independent Contractor

  1. Behavioral Control
    • Will you direct and control how the work is done?
  2. Financial Control
    • Are the business aspects of the worker's job controlled by the employer?  (including things like how the worker is paid (weekly v. completion of job), whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides the tools/supplies, etc.)
  3. Type of Relationship
    • Are there written contracts or employee-type benefits?  Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?
Yes answers to the above questions all indicate that the worker is an employee.  The law in Ohio focuses on what is actually happening in the relationship between the employer and employee or independent contractor - even if a worker is designated as an Independent Contractor on paper.

The Risk of Bringing Workers on As Independent Contractors

If you bring on new workers as independent contractors, you essentially cannot tell them how to do the work (no quality control), because then it would make them appear as employees under the law, and then if they're employees then you should be paying withholding taxes.

With independent contractors, the big risk, depending on the industry, is that the contractor would steal any new business opportunities for themselves, which they are entitled to do.  With employees, you can have them sign non-compete agreements, with independent contractors you generally cannot.

The Costs of Hiring Employees

The costs are certainly going to be greater in hiring employees rather than independent contractors, but in many circumstances it is well worth it.

You should generally hire as an independent contractor if you need help with completing certain jobs and do not foresee the relationship lasting beyond that.  With employees, you need to be able to guarantee them a minimum number of hours to work per week.  Employees will also generally expect benefits such as health care, vacation and sick time.  

There are also numerous State registration and insurance requirements that you must abide by in order to bring on new employees.  You can read about these requirements here.  

If Your Business is Ready to Expand, and You Need Help Navigating the Laws in Ohio, Contact Harris & Engler

The attorneys at Harris & Engler are here to guide you through the process of getting set up to hire employees or comply with the tax reporting requirements of independent contractors.  Contact an attorney by calling (614) 610-9988.



Columbus Business Law Firm

Disclaimer:  Harris & Engler offers this website and the content on it for informational purposes only, as a service for our clients and friends.  The contents of this site are not considered legal advice for any purpose, and you should not consider them as such advice or as legal opinion on any matters. 

With Offices Located at: 30 Northwoods Blvd., Suite 350, Columbus, Ohio 43235
Phone: (614) 610-9988  Email: [email protected]