Discrimination is a dirty little secret that unfortunately happens at work. However, discrimination is also an allegation that is frequently made when employees are disciplined or terminated. In Ohio, employees who believe they have been discriminated against file a Charge of Discrimination with either the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). There is a difference between the two government agencies, and that difference could determine whether an employee is able to file a law suit, which court the employee could file the law suit in, what claims the employee can bring in his or her law suit, as well as govern some of the damages an employee may be able to recover.

When an employer receives a Charge of Discrimination in the mail, it will be asked whether it wants to mediate the charge or have the charge be investigated. There are several factors that go into the decision whether to mediate or investigate a Charge of Discrimination, and employers should consult with legal counsel before making a decision. Austin Legal encourages mediation under some situations and proceeds to investigation at other times. Both parties must agree before mediation can occur. If mediation is chosen, and the dispute is not resolved, the Charge of Discrimination is then investigated.

When a Charge of Discrimination is mediated, both parties come together in one room, make opening statements, and then separate into different rooms. The mediator then goes back and forth between the rooms, gathers facts and information from both sides, and tries to resolve the dispute in an amicable manner. Austin Legal is usually involved in the mediation process of discrimination charges. Matt Austin makes the opening statement, advises clients about the merits of settlement, and helps prepare settlement documents.

If mediation does not result in a settlement or one side does not agree to mediate the Charge of Discrimination, the charge is investigated. When a Charge of Discrimination is investigated, the employer must provide a position statement, evidence of its position, as well as other information requested by the OCRC or the EEOC. Similar to an employer’s response to a claim for unemployment, employers hurt themselves by not providing a robust position statement or all documents requested by the OCRC or the EEOC. Austin Legal prepares these position statements, identifies relevant supporting evidence, and backs up the employer’s position with case law when appropriate.

The end process of a Charge of Discrimination is either a dismissal of the charge – also called a “No Probable Cause” finding – or the OCRC or EEOC will file a lawsuit against the employer on behalf of the employee. Employers must realize that a No Probable Cause finding simply means that the OCRC or EEOC is not going to sue on behalf of the employee; the employee is free to retain legal counsel to file a discrimination law suit on its own.