In August 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court considered a high-profile employment discrimination case involving the City of Dayton Police Department. Under federal and Ohio laws, an employer is not permitted to engage in any discriminatory practices with regard to workplace decisions, and cannot take adverse action against an employee based on the employee’s membership in a protected class.
However, as the court pointed out in Hauser v. Dayton Police Department, not all bosses are subject to the discrimination prohibitions found in Ohio Revised Code 4112. More specifically, the court concluded that certain immunity protections prevented the plaintiff from suing the Dayton Police Department’s supervisor individually, and her case was ultimately dismissed.
What Happened in Hauser?
At issue in the Hauser case was the intersection between two statutory provisions in the Ohio Revised Code. Ohio law expressly grants immunity from discrimination liability to supervisors of a political subdivision. However, there are three exceptions to this rule under Ohio law, including an exception removing immunity if the Ohio Revised Code expressly imposes liability in an applicable section. In Hauser, the plaintiff pointed to Section 4112.02(A), which makes it “an unlawful discriminatory practice for any employer to discriminate on a number of different grounds—as relevant to this case, sex”.
The defendant supervisor asserted he did not fall within the definition of “employer” as intended by the Ohio legislature. The case made its way up to the Ohio Supreme Court, hinging mostly on the issue of whether a police department supervisor is considered an “employee” under the immunity-removing language of Section 4112.02(A).
The Court’s Analysis
In a 4-3 opinion, the Court ultimately held the plaintiff – who allegedly experienced age and gender-based discrimination while employed as a police officer – could not maintain her employment discrimination lawsuit against her supervisor because he did not fall within the definition of “employer” as intended by the language of the Ohio Revised Statutes. The court relied on the interpretation of several comparable statutes in other jurisdictions, including l holdings by federal courts making an identical conclusion. Accordingly, the plaintiff could not recover from her supervisor on an individual basis.
However, the Court noted several caveats to its decision. For example, discrimination victims can still sue a political subdivision supervisor individually under a separate section of the Revised Statutes prohibiting aiding and abetting workplace discrimination.
Contact a Cincinnati Employment Discrimination Attorney Today!
Discrimination is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly, and the intricacies of the law may be difficult to understand. For more information about how the Hauser case could affect your employment discrimination claim, we encourage you to speak with one of our well-versed employment lawyers as soon as possible.