Last updated on August 3rd, 2023
A disability doesn’t mean you have to sideline your career. If you’re a software engineer who is confined to a wheelchair, for example, your employer should be willing to make your workspace wheelchair-accessible. If your employer refuses to do so, you might have a disability discrimination claim against your employer.
Employment discrimination based on disability is illegal in Ohio. Of course, in some cases, you might not be certain that your disability is the reason why you have been treated badly. If you seriously suspect disability discrimination, however, you must act quickly to protect your rights. In Ohio, the law gives you three remedies against disability discrimination in the workplace:
If your employer refuses to accommodate your disability, you can seek monetary damages for discrimination under both Ohio law and federal law.
For the purpose of Ohio disability discrimination law in the workplace, “disability” means a physical or mental impairment that substantially affects at least one life activity such as walking, talking, seeing, hearing, breathing, working, sleeping, or learning.
A person can also be treated as disabled under the law if they have a record of disability, or if they are merely regarded as disabled by others. Sexual orientation and gender identity of any type are not considered disabilities, and neither are certain addictions such as gambling, pyromania, kleptomania, or substance use disorders.
In Ohio, both federal and state laws govern the treatment of disabled people in the workplace. Following is a listing of some of the major statutes:
The remedies available for disability-based employment discrimination are consistent with the remedies for employment discrimination in general (except for age discrimination):
Not all of these remedies are available for every claim.
The Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits employment discrimination based on disability as well as many other characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, age, and ancestry. Unlike federal employment discrimination law, which applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, the Ohio statute applies to employers with as few as four employees.
Acts or omissions of prohibited employment discrimination include:
These prohibitions are not absolute. An employer may discriminate in an otherwise prohibited manner if the basis of the discrimination is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer’s particular enterprise. A church, for example, may practice religious discrimination when hiring a pastor.
The Employment Law Uniformity Act (ELUA) was signed into law by Governor Dewine in January 2021. Among its most important features include:
The foregoing is only a partial list of the amendments contained in ELUA.
In Ohio, you can file a disability discrimination claim with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These two entities have a work-sharing agreement whereby they cooperate with each other to process discrimination claims. As long as you indicate in your claim, the agency you file the complaint with will cross-file it with the other agency.
The deadline for filing an administrative complaint (required before you can file a civil lawsuit) is:
Some counties and municipalities offer their own legal protection against disability-based employment discrimination. Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located) for example, maintains a Human Rights Commission that protects against disability-based employment administration.
Ohio law related to disability-based employment discrimination in the workplace is complex and highly subject to interpretation. Retaining an experienced Ohio employment discrimination attorney is probably the best way to maximize the chances that an Ohio court will see your case the same way you do. Reach out today for a free consultation.
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