Written by attorney Jerome Thomas Linnen Jr.

Ohio Sexual Harassment Law

An employer has obligations under both federal and Ohio law to provide a workplace that is free from sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is based upon the conduct of a supervisor, coworker or possibly a non-employee such as a supplier or client of the employer, which creates a hostile, offensive or intimidating work environment based upon the employee’s sex. The courts recognize sexual harassment in the form of “hostile environment" and “quid pro quo".

To establish a hostile work environment, the employee must show the following

  1. that the harassment was unwelcome,
  2. that the harassment was based on sex,
  3. that the harassing conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment, and
  4. that either (a) the harassment was committed by a supervisor, or (b) the employer, through its agents or supervisor personnel, knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when a supervisor or business owner offers tangible job benefits in exchange for some form of sexual interaction with the employee, or when there is a threat of tangible job detriments if the employee does not comply with the requested sexual favors. For hostile environment sexual harassment to occur, there is no requirement for a “job benefit or detriment." Some cases could involve both types of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment under federal law is based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq. Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of sex and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. In order to bring an action under Title VII, the employee is required to file an administrative claim with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). An employee has a total of 300 days to file with the EEOC, but only 180 days to file a claim with the OCRC. Ohio is a dual filing state, so if an employee files a charge with the OCRC, a claim will be automatically initiated with the EEOC as well and the OCRC will perform an investigation.

An employee may also file a sexual harassment claim under Ohio statutory law or under Ohio common law. Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01 et. seq., prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, sex and ancestry. In addition to applying law that has been decided in the Ohio courts, an Ohio court will apply federal law under Title VII in sexual harassment cases.

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