The Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals has decided that disability discrimination plaintiffs do not have an obligation to exhaust available administrative remedies such as arbitration under a collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff Worley, a teacher, sued Defendant Newton Falls School for disability discrimination under Ohio Revised Code 4112.02. Defendant raised R.C. 4112.14(C), arguing that plaintiff ‘s claim was barred because she had failed to arbitrate her discharge pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff countered that R.C. 4112.14(C) applied only to age discrimination claims.
R.C. 4112.14(C) states:
The cause of action described in division (B) of this section [for age discrimination] and any remedies available pursuant to sections 4112.01 to 4112.11 of the Revised Code shall not be available in the case of discharges where the employee has available to the employee the opportunity to arbitrate the discharge or where a discharge has been arbitrated and has been found to be for just cause.
The bolded language suggests the argument made by Defendant – exhaustion is required of not only age discrimination plaintiff but all other plaintiffs bringing suit to enforce their rights under R.C. 4112.02. That is indeed what R.C. 4112.14(C) appears to say. Fortunately for plaintiffs that is not what the majority of courts have decided. The central theme running through these cases is the plaintiff employment lawyers’ dear friend, R.C. 4112.99. Thus, read these cases: Luginbihl v. Milcor Ltd. Partnership, 3rd Dist. Allen No. 1-01-162, 2002-Ohio-2188 ("R.C. 4112.14(C) is not applicable to the case at bar nor to any non-age discrimination claim brought pursuant to R.C. 4112.99.*** "[n]owhere in the language or the interpretation of the statute could it be said that R.C. 4112.14(C) applies to actions brought pursuant to R.C. 4112.99."); Braud v. Cuyahoga Cty. Career Ctr, N.D. Ohio No. 1:06 CV 1059, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22526, 16 (Mar. 27, 2007) ("[t]here is no requirement that an administrative process be followed *** prior to bringing suit under §§ 4112.02 and 4112.99 for handicap discrimination"); Dworning v. Euclid, 119 Ohio St.3d 83, 2008-Ohio-3318, 892 N.E.2d 420 ("an individual [may] file a civil action to remedy discrimination without having invoked the administrative remedies available through the OCRC [and] "the filing of a charge of discrimination with the OCRC does not preclude a person from filing a civil action under R.C. 4112.99. * * * [A] public employee alleging employment discrimination in violation of R.C. Chapter 4112 need not exhaust the administrative remedy of appeal to a civil service commission before pursuing the civil action allowed in R.C. 4112.99.") See also Elek v. Huntington Natl. Bank, 60 Ohio St.3d 135, 137, 573 N.E.2d 1056 (1991); Pingle v. Richmond Hts. Local School Dist. Bd. of Ed., N.D. Ohio No. 1:12-cv-02892, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141194, 14 (Sept. 30, 2013) ("§ 4112.14(C) is properly limited to age discrimination claims, as its statutory history and placement in the ‘age discrimination by employers’ statute would suggest") Contra Hopkins v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 1st Dist. Hamilton No. C-990392, 2000 Ohio App. LEXIS 443 (Feb. 11, 2000) ("[t]he plain language of [R.C. 4112.14(C)] indicates the General Assembly’s intent to bar civil actions for age discrimination as well as ‘other remedies available under this chapter’ when the employee has the ability to arbitrate his claims.")
Worley v. Newton Falls Exempted Village School Board of Education, 2014-Ohio-5385, 2014-T-0024 December 8, 2014 Eleventh District, Trumbull