Both federal law and state law protects employees from discrimination. Federal laws include Title VII, the ADA, and the ADEA to protect against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, age, and disability. Ohio’s ORC § 4112 protects the same classes. How do employees choose where to avail themselves? It depends where an employee works and when an employee needs to bring a claim.

Most federal employment laws apply only to employers with 15 or more employees. If an employee works for an employer with less than 15 employees, the employee must file her claim in state court. Further, federal laws require that an employee first files a claim with the EEOC and receives a right-to-sue letter before she can file her claim in federal court. This process must begin within 300 days. The federal process can take many months before getting to court. Under most Ohio laws, a plaintiff must file a complaint within 180 days, and a plaintiff does not need to exhaust an administrative process. Federal laws often include attorney fees for a successful plaintiff. Ohio discrimination laws often do not.

The choice of the right forum is an important first step in a successful discrimination claim. And choosing the wrong path may have terrible results. Before an employee files her own EEOC charge, she should contact and discuss her claims with an experienced employment attorney. Taking the right first step is of the upmost importance.

Matt Miller-Novak, Esq.