Administrative Agencies for Employment Law Issues
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”) was established in 1959 by the Ohio Legislature and granted the authority to investigate and enforce state discrimination laws under O.R.C. Chapter 4112 (the Ohio Civil Rights Act). Its primary functions include:
- Investigating charges of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and disability in higher educ.; and
- Formulating policies to effectuate the purposes of Chapter 4112.
If a violation of the Act is found, the OCRC has authority to order affirmative, equitable relief, but only in the form of hiring, reinstatement, and back pay.
Note: Due to an arrangement between the OCRC and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charges filed with either agency are deemed to be duly filed, even though only one agency may investigate the matter.
The State Employment Relations Board
The State Employment Relations Board (“SERB”) administers the Ohio Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining Act (O.R.C. Chapter 4117), with the primary functions of:
- Investigating and adjudicating charges of unfair labor practices;
- Processing Petitions for Representation (requesting inclusion into or out of the bargaining unit), Petitions for Amendment (of the bargaining unit), and Requests for Recognition (request for union formation);
- Providing impasse resolution services for public employees, namely mediation and conciliation services; and
- Resolving strike-related disputes.
Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services, Ofc. of Unemployment Compensation
The Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services ("ODJFS") has the authority to receive and process applications for unemployment compensation. R.C. §§4141.13 and 4141.28. Appeals of the Director’s initial Determination (or Redetermination) must be made to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission (“UCRC”), then to the court of common pleas in the county. R.C. §§ 4141.281 and 4141.282.
Qualification: To qualify for unemployment benefits, an applicant must:
- Be totally or partially unemployed at the time of filing;
- Have worked enough weeks (20) and earned enough money ($233 per week in 2014) in covered employment during the base period (a 1-year look-back period); and
- Be unemployed through no fault of his own.
Other Ohio Administrative Agencies include the State Personnel Appeals Board (personnel appeals for mostly classified, non-unionized state workers); Various city and municipal personnel appeals boards (typically created by city charter).
U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division
The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Complaints may be filed with the DOL for violations of these laws. Claimants are not required to exhaust administrative remedies with the DOL for FLSA or FMLA claims, but claimants may elect to file with the DOL given that it costs them nothing. DOL-awarded remedies are equitable and more limited than those that may be awarded by a court.
National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and be represented by labor unions. The agency acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions. The primary functions include:
- Conducting elections to establish labor union representation for private-sector employees;
- Investigating charges of unfair labor practices under the NLRA, facilitating settlements, and deciding cases;
- Enforcing orders through the federal court system.
Note: The Federal Labor Relations Authority (“FLRA”) provides similar services for most federal, non-postal employees.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), age (pursuant to the ADEA), disability (pursuant to the ADA), sex-based wage discrimination (pursuant to the Equal Pay Act) or genetic information (pursuant to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”).
- EEOC Remedies Available: The primary goal of the EEOC is to provide the victim of discrimination with equitable remedies such as hiring, reinstatement and back pay.
- Compensatory and Punitive Damages: These damages may be available in cases involving intentional discrimination. Limits exist on the amount of these damages, which depend on the size of the employer.
- Liquidated Damages: In cases involving intentional age discrimination under the ADEA or intentional sex-based wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act, victims cannot recover either compensatory or punitive damages, but may be entitled to special “liquidated damages” which may be awarded by the EEOC.
EEOC Rights Cannot Be Waived: Employee rights under the EEOC are non-waivable under the federal civil rights laws. An employer may not interfere with the protected right of an employee to file a charge, testify, assist, or participate in any manner in an investigation, hearing, or proceeding. See Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 28 (1991)(holding that an individual who signs an agreement to submit an employment discrimination claim to arbitration remains free to file a charge with EEOC).