Employment Law

The FAIR Act Would End Forced Arbitration and Help Workers Protect Their Rights

February 24th, 2021 by

The FAIR Act (The Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act) was recently reintroduced in Congress. If passed, this law would ban mandatory arbitration agreements, which take away the rights of workers and consumers to sue in court or take part in class-action lawsuits. It would allow employees to sue their employers in court in cases of wage theft, harassment, discrimination, or other violations of their employment rights.
Over the past several years, employers have included forced arbitration clauses in employee handbooks, incentive compensation plans, and employment agreements, aimed at preventing workers from going to court if they think their rights have been violated in the workplace. Today, roughly 60 million workers are subject to forced arbitration. Estimates are that by 2024, more than 80 percent of private-sector, nonunion workers will be subject to forced arbitration.
While employers often argue that arbitration is quicker and easier to resolve disputes with their workers, the system puts workers at a real disadvantage. Arbitration is often confidential, making it nearly impossible to track an arbitrator’s record on the decisions he or she has made. Confidentiality also protects employers from exposing their illegal actions. Arbitration rules have few legal safeguards that protect individual workers, including limits on the ability to obtain key evidence needed to prove their claims. Arbitration can also include high fees and “loser pays” rules that make it too expensive for most workers to go through the process.
According to Jeffrey A. Mittman, Executive Director of the National Employment Lawyer’s Association, forced arbitration “strips vulnerable workers of the right to enforce laws that were designed to protect them when they are victims of illegal treatment in the workplace. Forced arbitration favors employers and coerces workers into losing either their rights or their jobs.”
The FAIR Act would prohibit forced arbitration for employment, consumer, antitrust and civil rights disputes. It would keep companies from forcing individuals, workers, and small businesses to agree to be bound by arbitration before a dispute has occurred. Instead, workers would have the choice to agree to arbitration after an employment dispute arises. In addition, the FAIR Act would not affect collective bargaining agreements that require arbitration between unions and employers.
The FAIR Act has overwhelming public support. According to one national survey, 84 percent of the public supports federal legislation that ends the practice of forcing workers and consumers into arbitration. The FAIR Act is good for workers because it will ensure that they can protect their rights in court if their rights are violated at work. You can support passage of the FAIR Act by contacting your Ohio Senators and Congressional Representatives.

Employment laws covering worker’s rights are always changing. Our attorneys work constantly to stay up to date with the latest changes and are here to help workers protect their rights.
Find more information on the FAIR Act here.

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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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