Discrimination

Meet Our Attorneys – Niro M. Wijesooriya and Serah E. Siemann

May 5th, 2021 by

The attorneys of Freking Myers & Reul are a cohesive team with decades of experience helping individuals with legal advice and representation. Diligent, empathetic, passionate, approachable, are just a few words you could use to describe us. We would like you to get to know more about us by following our series “Meet Our Attorneys” to learn about our professional achievements and experiences as well as our passions, hobbies, and interests outside the office.

Niro Wijesooriya

Niro M. Wijesooriya practices in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of employment contract, severance/separation negotiation, non-competition, and wage and hour law. He has appeared in state and federal trial and appellate courts, and before local, state, and federal agencies and commissions, including civil service commissions. Niro also provides clients with probate court representation and estate planning.

Niro has been a lawyer for over 15 years, practicing both civil and criminal law. He began his legal career as an Assistant Prosecutor for the City of Cincinnati, accumulating extensive jury and bench trial experience in criminal court while also assisting in civil matters. Niro left the Prosecutor’s office to work for a civil law firm, where he represented Public Sector unions and their members in everything from negotiating collective bargaining agreements, to grievances, to disciplinary matters. Niro also gained substantial experience representing private sector employees in a full spectrum of employment matters. Niro then started his own civil practice, while also managing the criminal and civil docket for a Hamilton County Municipal Court judge.

Before becoming a lawyer, Niro received his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where he served as an Editor on the Human Rights Quarterly, and his B.A. in English Literature from the George Washington University.
Outside of work, Niro volunteers with several organizations that focus on assisting under-privileged children gain access to resources and opportunities, including Found Village and Cincinnati Squash Academy. He is an avid runner, and plays tennis, squash, and soccer. He and his wife created and ran a sports boosters’ club for the new elementary public school that their children attended. His son and daughter both currently attend Walnut Hills High School. Niro has lived in Africa, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand, and enjoys international travel. He now lives in Pleasant Ridge with his wife and their two children.

Serah E. Siemann

Serah E. Siemann is a graduate from the University of Dayton School of Law and is a member of the Ohio Bar. After working in the social welfare system for almost a decade, Serah pursued her career as an attorney to provide guidance and assistance to individuals facing complex and diverse legal issues. Serah has previously appeared as counsel for both employers and employees in state and federal proceedings. Currently, Serah continues to focus her practice on plaintiffs work in employment law matters including discrimination, Fair Labor Standards Act, harassment, and contractual relations. In addition, Serah serves as an advocate for families and children involved in the Juvenile court. Her practices areas also include estate planning, contract review, Social Security Disability and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In 2019, Serah was recognized by the Montgomery County Juvenile Court as Outstanding Attorney of the Year. Serah serves as co-chair of the Juvenile Law Section of the Dayton Bar Association and is actively serves as a Guardian Ad Litem in Dayton and the surrounding areas. She has been named an Ohio Super Lawyers Rising Star for 2020 and 2021.
In their free time, Serah and her husband enjoy spending time with their three children and four grandchildren. They continue to serve as foster/adoptive parents to children in the community. Serah enjoys traveling, reading and attending local festivals.

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ALERT: Changes to Ohio Law Shortens Deadline for Filing Employment Discrimination Claims

February 16th, 2021 by

In January, Ohio passed a new law known as the Employment Law Uniformity Act. This law makes important changes to Chapter 4112, Ohio’s statute that outlaws employment discrimination. The new law makes several changes including shortening the time in which an employee can bring a workplace discrimination action from six years to two years. These changes go into effect on APRIL 13, 2021.
Under current law, a worker who has been discriminated against because of race, gender, disability, or other kinds of illegal discrimination (except for age), usually has up to six years from the time of the discrimination to file a lawsuit. Once this new law goes into effect on April 13, 2021, workers will be required to go through an administrative process before they can bring a lawsuit, and all discrimination claims must be filed within two years, rather than within the six-year limit that applies to most claims under current law.
Failing to file within the right time limits can mean a worker loses their claim. Any worker who thinks they may have a workplace discrimination claim should consult an attorney right away to make sure they can protect their rights. The employment attorneys at FMR work hard to keep up to date on changes in the law and are here to help.

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Ohio Employers Cannot Use Employee Handbooks to Shorten Time Limits for Their Workers to File Discrimination Claims

February 1st, 2021 by

On January 15, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court that hears appeals from lower federal courts in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan, issued a decision that prevents employers from using employee handbooks and similar employee agreements to reduce the time within which their workers can sue for workplace discrimination.
In a case filed in an Ohio federal court, Thompson v. Fresh Products, LLC, et al., the plaintiff sued her former employer raising several claims, including claims of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as similar claims under Ohio law.
The employer argued that the suit was time barred because it was filed more than six months after she was laid off, and she had signed an Employment Handbook that said any lawsuits against the company had to be filed within six months.
The Court allowed the six month limit to kick out the plaintiff’s claims brought under Ohio law, but ruled that the Handbook could not prevent her from bringing her federal claims to court. The Court found that the federal laws that protect workers from workplace discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, disability, and age create core rights that cannot be waived or signed away. Thus, a worker’s right to bring a discrimination claim within the time period set out in the federal laws cannot be changed by an Employee Handbook or other similar agreements between a worker and her employer.
This is a big win for workers in Ohio and the other states in the Sixth Circuit. For years, many employers have included these kinds of time limit clauses in Employee Handbooks and other agreements that workers have to sign when they are hired. Companies have tried to limit lawsuits to shorter periods than allowed under the law to prevent employees from bringing claims when they have been the victims of workplace discrimination. Now the Court has made it clear that in Ohio, and the other states in the Sixth Circuit, employers can’t prevent a worker from bringing a discrimination lawsuit that is properly filed with the time set out in the federal anti-discrimination laws themselves (generally 300 days in Ohio).
One question this case did not answer is whether an arbitration agreement can shorten the time a worker has to bring forward a discrimination complaint. Employment law can be complex and is constantly changing. It is important the workers consult legal counsel to help sort through these complicated issues.

See a copy of the Sixth Circuit opinion.

 

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ALERT: New Ohio Law Makes Important Changes to Procedures and Deadlines for Employment Discrimination Claims

January 25th, 2021 by

On January 12, 2021, Governor DeWine signed into law HB 352, known as the Employment Law Uniformity Act. This law makes important changes to Chapter 4112, Ohio’s statute that outlaws employment discrimination. The new law makes several changes including shortening the time in which an employee can bring a workplace discrimination action from six years to two years; requiring workers to go through an administrative process before they can file a lawsuit; removing personal liability for managers and supervisors who discriminate against their employees; providing a defense to harassment claims for employers who can prove they took action to prevent and correct the harassment; and changing the process for age discrimination claims. The effective date of the new law will be APRIL 13, 2021.
The Blog focuses on the important changes to the time limits for filing discrimination charges and lawsuits. The other parts of the new law will be discussed in a later post.
Under the new law, the procedures and time limits will be the same for all types of employment discrimination cases. Supporters of the new law, including Ohio employers and their attorneys, argued that it would bring many of Ohio’s employment discrimination laws in line with their federal counterparts, and make the system for bringing claims more predictable and consistent for both employers and employees. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen.
What is true is that workers who have been discriminated against at work have less time to file a case and are now required to go through an administrative process before they can bring a lawsuit. Starting on April 13, 2021, all discrimination claims must be filed within two years, rather than within the six year limit that applies to most claims under current law.
Under current law a worker can choose to file a workplace discrimination claim with either the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or in state court. When the new law takes over on April 13, 2021, workers will lose this choice and will be required to first file a charge with the OCRC before bringing a lawsuit.
These changes are especially notable for claims of age discrimination. Under current law, there are different ways a worker can bring a claim for age discrimination, with different time limits. The new law makes the process for age claims the same as it is for other types of discrimination such as race or gender. Starting April 13, all age claims will be subject to the same two-year time limit as all other discrimination claims.
Ohio workers need to know that if they think they have an issue of workplace discrimination this new law will change the time they have to bring a claim against their employer. For cases where a worker thinks they have been discriminated against because of their gender, race, or disability, for example, under the new law they will only have two years to bring the claim, not the six years allowed under current law. Failing to file within in the right time limits can mean a worker loses their claim. Any worker who thinks they may have a workplace discrimination claim should consult an attorney right away to make sure they can protect their rights. The employment attorneys at FMR are working hard to keep up to date on all the changes the new Ohio law will bring and are here to help.

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Women Workers Suffer 100% of All U.S. Job Losses in December

January 12th, 2021 by

The Labor Department has reported that the U.S. economy lost a net 140,000 jobs in December.  According to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), women lost 156,000 jobs overall during December, while men gained 16,000 jobs.  That means that women accounted for 100% all of U.S. job losses in December.

Since the start of the COVID crisis, the U.S. has netted a loss of approximately 9.8 million jobs.  55% of the lost jobs belonged to women.  The pandemic has crippled the retail, restaurant, and other service sector industries, where women make up the majority of workers.

Women of color have been disproportionately impacted by the employment crisis.  In December, the unemployment rate was 6.7% overall, and 5.8% for white men.  But during the same period, 8.4% of Black women and 9.1% of Latina women were unemployed.

In addition, nearly 2.1 million women have dropped out of the labor force entirely since February.  Studies show that since the pandemic began, the burden of childcare and remote learning has fallen much more heavily on mothers than on fathers.   As a result, many women have either stopped working or stopped looking for work.

Many economists and analysts are worried about the long-term impact of this employment crisis on women’s economic health and future earnings. Almost 40% of unemployed women in December have been out of work for six months or more.  According to the NWLC, the longer a worker is out of a job, the lower the worker’s wages will be when they do become employed.

Of course, these issues are not entirely new.  Even before the pandemic, women working full-time in the U.S. were paid $.82 for each dollar paid to men, and the gap is even wider for women of color.  The employment crisis brought on by the pandemic may further widen pay gaps and damage the financial security of women and their families.

But this is not a foregone conclusion.  Some of these impacts can be avoided if the government offers robust pandemic relief.  Experts recommend that funding be directed to state and local governments (which employ many women), paid family and medical leave, and schools and childcare, so that women are not forced to choose between caring for their family and earning an income.

For more information see:

A year ago, women outnumbered men in the U.S. workforce, now they account for 100% of jobs lost in December

All of the Jobs Lost in December Were Women’s Jobs

Women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs shed by the U.S. economy in December

US cut 140,000 jobs in December. All were held by women, while men gained employment

 

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