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This information is provided for educational and guidance purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor to substitute the need for legal counsel. Entire contents Copyright 2006. Martin James O'Connell.


Discrimination Laws - Summary

Martin J. O'Connell, Esq.

Federal Discrimination Laws

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age.  ADEA covers all private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local governments (including school districts), employment agencies and labor organizations.

A charge shall be filed within 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations. The ADA’s nondiscrimination standards also apply to federal sector employees under section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, and its implementing rules.

Most circuits that have adopted a statute of limitations for ADA or Rehabilitation Act claims have looked to the state’s limitations period for personal injury actions.


ADA Definition: “Disability”


Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), “[d]isability means, with respect to an individual, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2 (g) (2003). Ohio defines “disability” in an identical manner. Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.01(A)(13).


Ohio Definition: “Disability”

The definition of disability under Ohio law and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12102, are virtually identical. Moreover, “[t]he essential elements of a claim brought under the ADA and the Ohio handicap discrimination statute are the same. Therefore, the case law regarding claims brought under the ADA applies equally to claims brought under the Ohio Statute.” Hoffman v. Fidelity Brokerage Servs., Inc. 959 F. Supp. 452, 457 n. 1 (S.D. Ohio 1997).


Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulates employers who offer pension or welfare benefit plans for their employees. Title I of ERISA is administered by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) (formerly the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration) and imposes a wide range of fiduciary, disclosure and reporting requirements on fiduciaries of pension and welfare benefit plans and on others having dealings with these plans. These provisions preempt many similar state laws. Under Title IV, certain employers and plan administrators must fund an insurance system to protect certain kinds of retirement benefits, with premiums paid to the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). EBSA also administers reporting requirements for continuation of health-care provisions, required under the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) and the health care portability requirements on group plans under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The statute of limitations for breach of fiduciary duty claims is six years from the date of the last action which constituted a breach or six years from the latest date the fiduciary could have cured a breach of omission. If the claimant had actual knowledge of the breach, the statute of limitations runs three years from the date of the claimant had actual knowledge.


Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $5.15 an hour. Overtime pay at a rate of not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek.


Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (FLSA), and which is administered and enforced by the EEOC, prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who are performing under similar working conditions.  The Equal Pay Act covers all employers who are covered by the Federal Wage and Hour Law (the Fair Labor Standards Act). Virtually all employers are subject to the provisions of this Act.


Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Covered employers (29 CFR 825.104) must grant an eligible employee (29 CFR 825.110) up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:


1.  for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;

2.  for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;

3.  to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or

4.   to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

 Generally, an action may be brought under FMLA not later than 2 years after the date of the last event constituting the alleged violation for which the action is brought.


The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Safety and health conditions in most private industries are regulated by OSHA or OSHA-approved state programs, which also cover public sector employers. Employers covered by the OSH Act must comply with the regulations and the safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA. Employers also have a general duty under the OSH Act to provide their employees with work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards. OSHA enforces the Act through workplace inspections and investigations.


Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act)

Title VII, as amended, as it appears in volume 42 of the United States Code, beginning at section 2000e. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, and national origin. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (Pub. L. 102-166) (CRA) amends several sections of Title VII.  Title VII covers all private employers, state and local governments, and education institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training.

Title VII extends protection to “applicants” for employment; ADEA does not.

 All laws enforced by EEOC, except the Equal Pay Act, require filing a charge with EEOC before a private lawsuit may be filed in court. There are strict time limits within which charges must be filed.

A charge must be filed with EEOC within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation, in order to protect the charging party’s rights.

This 180-day filing deadline is extended to 300 days if the charge also is covered by a state or local anti-discrimination law. For ADEA charges, only state laws extend the filing limit to 300 days.


Discrimination – Generally

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including:

  • hiring and firing;
  • compensation, assignment, or classification of employees;
  • transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall;
  • job advertisements;
  • recruitment;
  • testing;
  • use of company facilities;
  • training and apprenticeship programs;
  • fringe benefits;
  • pay, retirement plans, and disability leave; or
  • other terms and conditions of employment.

Discriminatory practices under these laws also include:


Discrimination - Employment - General - McDonnell Douglas Framework


In a case alleging employment discrimination, the plaintiff bears the initial burden of either presenting direct evidence of discrimination, or of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination indirectly by following the standard set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (1973), 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817; and Byrnes v. LCI Communication Holdings Co. (1996), 77 Ohio St.3d 125. Peters v. Ohio Dept. of Nat. Resources, Franklin App. No. 03AP-350, 2003-Ohio-5895.


In order to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) that she suffered an adverse employment action; (3) that she was qualified for the position; and (4) either that she was replaced by someone outside the protected class or that a comparable, non-protected person was treated more favorably. See, e.g., Samadder v. DMF of Ohio, Inc., 154 Ohio App.3d 770, 2003-Ohio-5340, at ¶35; Ferguson v. Lear Corp., 155 Ohio App.3d 677, 2003-Ohio-7261, at ¶17, citing Brewer v. Cleveland Bd. of Edn. (1997), 122 Ohio App.3d 378, 385; Plumbers & Steamfitters Joint Apprenticeship Commt. v. Ohio Civ. Rights Comm. (1981), 66 Ohio St.2d 192, 197.


Once the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to set forth a non-discriminatory reason for the discharge. If the employer does so, the burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the legitimate, non-discriminatory reason was merely a pretext for discrimination. Id.









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