Ohio: Worker Does Not Have Arbitrate Before Suing for Disability Discrimination

By SHRM Online staff Jan 23, 2015
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An Ohio appellate court held that a school worker did not need to exhaust her union arbitration rights before suing for disability discrimination under Ohio law.

On Aug. 29, 2013, Jenifer Worley filed a complaint against the Newton Falls Exempted Village School for disability discrimination pursuant to Ohio law, R.C. Chapter 4112, and intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Newton Falls School filed a motion of summary judgment based on Worleys failure to exhaust her administrative remedies under Ohio law. The trial court granted Newton Falls School summary judgment. Worley appealed.

Ohio law (R.C. 4112.02(A)) prohibits employers from discriminating against employee based on a disability. In addition, an employer who discriminates against an employee based on disability is civilly liable for damages, injunctive relief, or any other appropriate relief, according to R.C. 4112.99. The appellate court also noted that in Elek v. Huntington Natl. Bank, 60 Ohio St.3d 135 (June 21, 1991), the Ohio Supreme Court said that R.C. 4112.99 provides the only civil remedy to address disability discrimination.

Nonetheless, Newton Falls School argued that Worley had to exhaust her administrative remedies pursuant to R.C. 4112.14(C) and arbitrate her discharge pursuant to her collective bargaining agreement. Worley argued that R.C. 4112.14(C) properly applies only to age discrimination claims. The appellate court agreed with Worley, ruling that R.C. 4112.14(C) is not applicable to any “non-age discrimination claim” brought pursuant to R.C. 4112.99. The court found that Worely could file a civil action for disability discrimination without pursuing administrative remedies, and remanded the case to the trial court, overturning the grant of summary judgment.

Worley v. Newton Falls Exempted Vill. Sch. Bd. of Educ., Ohio Ct. App., No. 2014-T-0024 (Dec. 8, 2014).

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