All employers with a unionized work force, take note: Just because someone has an age discrimination claim awaiting resolution under your collective bargaining agreement’s grievance procedures doesn’t mean the employee can’t prepare to file a lawsuit. In fact, the employee may have no choice but to go forward, or risk losing the right to sue in the first place.
Ohio’s age discrimination laws have a relatively short statute of limitations—in most cases, just 180 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. Employees can’t wait while the matter is grieved.
Advice: Prepare for the matter to go to court even if the grievance process is going well.
Recent case: Timothy Nicklas worked for UPS until he was 42 years old. Nicklas liked to brag about how slowly he could work, thus getting fewer assignments. UPS eventually fired him forafter he was filmed taking long restroom breaks and purposely walking slowly, among other alleged tricks to slow his work. The company listed the firing offense as “dishonesty.” Nicklas filed a grievance under the union contract.
He also sued under Ohio’s age discrimination law. But it had been more than 180 days since he was fired, and the law gives employees just that long to file a claim. Nicklas argued that he should have received additional time because his case went through the union grievance process, and the union’s contract stated that legal proceedings could come only after the grievance process.
The court said that provision applied only to the union and the employer, not employees. They have to follow state law and file within 180 days. (Nicklas v. United Parcel Service, No. 1:07-CV-73, ND OH, 2007)