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Bosses need to know: They’re personally liable for discrimination under Ohio law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Here’s an incentive for managers and supervisors to avoid doing anything that smacks of possible discrimination. While federal civil rights laws generally don’t make managers and supervisors personally liable for discrimination, Ohio state law does.

That should be a powerful incentive for line managers and supervisors to avoid creating a hostile work environment.

Recent case: Carlotta Cook, who was 59 years old, quit her job with Liquid Container after she claimed her supervisor made her life miserable.

The problem began when someone reported to OSHA that a pallet of bottles blocked an exit. The agency investigated and fined the company. Finding places to store pallets was one of Cook’s job responsibilities, and her supervisor began telling her co-workers that it was her fault the company had been fined.

After she quit, Cook sued, alleging age discrimination. She sued the supervisor personally, too, claiming he had made age-related comments to her and had tried to get her to quit.

The court agreed that under state age discrimination laws, the supervisor could be held personally liable for discriminatory acts such as age discrimination or creating a hostile work environment based on age.

Fortunately for the supervisor, the court finally concluded that, in this case, Cook hadn’t proven she had been forced to quit. The conduct she described wasn’t serious or pervasive enough to create an intolerable situation. (Cook v. Liquid Container, et al., No. 1:08-CV-167, SD OH, 2009)

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