The Hamilton County Court of Appeals (Cincinnati) has taken the first step toward eliminating the confusion regarding applicable statute of limitations in age discrimination claims. In Meyer v. United Parcel Services, Inc., Hamilton Cty, No. C-060772, 2007-Ohio-7063, the Hamilton County Court of Appeals concluded that the Plaintiff had timely filed his age discrimination claim under R.C. § 4112.99 even though the lawsuit was not filed until more than 18 months after the termination of his employment. The debate originates from a multitude of statutes which prohibit age discrimination under Ohio law and the limitation periods established under each of these statutes. A brief summary of the competing statutory provisions is set forth more fully below.
Ohio law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. This prohibition is found in R.C. § 4112.02(N) as well as R.C. § 4112.14. R.C. § 4112.14 was originally codified as R.C. § 4101.17 and prohibited discrimination on the basis of age, but only provided equitable relief to an aggrieved employee. Prior to being renumbered as § 4112.14, R.C. § 4101.17 was interpreted to be governed by a six-year statute of limitations. Conversely, R.C. § 4112.02(N) provides that any claim for age discrimination under that subsection must be brought within 180 days from the date of the discriminatory action. Claims brought pursuant to R.C. § 4112.99 for violations of R.C. § 4112.02(N) likewise had to be filed within 180 days. Finally, R.C. § 4112.08 requires a plaintiff seeking redress for age discrimination to elect his remedies between R.C. §§ 4112.02, 4112.05 and 4112.14.
Prior to the Meyer decision, a plaintiff either had to elect the broad remedial remedies under R.C. § 4112.99 and bring their lawsuit within 180 days or choose more limited remedies while pursuing their claims under R.C. § 4101.17 (subsequently renumbered R.C. § 4112.14) within six years of the discriminating act. Meyers now would eliminate this dilemma for plaintiffs and would permit plaintiffs to bring a claim for age discrimination under R.C. § 4112.99 and seek the broad legal remedies provided under that statute without being barred by the 180-day limitation period set forth in R.C. § 4112.02(N).
The Meyers court concluded that a plaintiff may elect to bring a claim under R.C. § 4112.99 seeking damages, injunctive relief or any other appropriate relief within six years from the date of the discriminatory act. In so holding, the court relied upon the recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court in Leininger v. Pioneer National Latex(2007), 115 Ohio St.3d 311,which held that <st1:place:st=”on”>Ohio does not recognize a common law tort claim for wrongful discharge based on public policy against age discrimination. However, the Ohio Supreme Court recognized that a violation of R.C. § 4112.14 could support a claim for damages, injunctive relief, or any other appropriate relief under R.C. § 4112.99.
The practical effect for employers is obvious. State law age discrimination claims arising out of termination decisions in 2002 may still be timely. All documentation relating to employment decisions which raise the risk of age discrimination should be maintained for at least six years in order to preserve the ability to properly defend potential claims.