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The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) was established July 29, 1959 by the Ohio Legislature. The powers, duties, jurisdiction, practices and procedures of the Commission are specified in the Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 4112. The primary function of The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is to enforce state laws against discrimination. OCRC receives and investigates charges of discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation, housing, credit, and disability in higher education on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry, military status or familial status. The Commission has statutory authority to:

  • initiate investigations of discriminatory practice;

  • formulate policies to effectuate the purposes of Chapter 4112 of the Ohio Revised Code, and make recommendations to agencies and offices of the state or local subdivisions of government to effectuate such policies;make periodic surveys of the existence and effect of discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry military status or familial status on the enjoyment of civil rights by persons within the state;

  • initiate investigations of discriminatory practices;

  • formulate policies to effectuate the purposes of Chapter 4112 of the Ohio Revised Code, and make recommendations to agencies and offices of the state or local subdivisions of government to effectuate such policies;make periodic surveys of the existence and effect of discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry military status or familial status on the enjoyment of civil rights by persons within the state;

  • receive progress reports from agencies, instrumentalities, institutions, boards,commissions, and other entities of this state or any of its political subdivisions and their agencies, instrumentalities, institutions, boards, commissions, and other entities regarding affirmative action programs for the employment of persons against whom discrimination is prohibited; 

  • prepare a comprehensive educational program, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Education, for the students of Ohio’s public schools and for all other residents of Ohio that is designed to: eliminate prejudice on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, ancestry military status or familial status, further good will amongst those groups and emphasize the origin of prejudice against those groups and its harmful effects.  

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission follows a proactive approach in education, training, and the dissemination of publications to better educate and inform Ohioans about their civil rights. Our Valuing Diversity: Learning and Living Together course of study for Ohio’s public school students is one positive way of preparing people to live more harmoniously in the globally diverse 21st Century.

The Commission consists of a five-member board of Commissioners and approximately 78 employees. The Commissioners are appointed to staggered five-year terms by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. By law, no more than three Commissioners can be of the same political party. The Governor designates one of the Commissioners to serve as the Chairperson. The Commissioners are responsible for selecting the agency’s Executive Director, who implements the policies and decisions of the Commission. Commissioners serve as the final arbiter in the investigatory process.

Commissioners meet regularly to rule on recommendations from the OCRC’s five regional offices regarding charges of discrimination. By contract or established relationship, OCRC has linkages with a variety of private, state and federal organizations such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Anyone who lives or works in Ohio and feels he/she has been subjected to unlawful discrimination can file a charge with one of OCRC’s regional offices located in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton or Toledo; or with OCRC’s Cincinnati satellite offices. Such complaints must be filed within six (6) months (or one year for housing complaints) of the alleged act of discrimination; or, OCRC may self-initiate an investigation. OCRC must make a finding within one (1) year after the charge is filed.

Self-initiation is usually the result of preliminary information indicating that there may be a pattern of discrimination within an entire system, “systemic discrimination”. OCRC may “self-initiate” in employment and housing cases only. There is no fee for OCRC’s services. When a charge is filed, the responsibility for the investigation is assigned to a Civil Rights Field Representative (investigator). During the investigation, the investigator will discuss allegations in detail with the Charging Party (person filing the charge) and will also contact the Respondent (the person(s) or company responsible for the alleged act of discrimination). Before any determination is made on the merits of a charge each party may be offered voluntary mediation. If both parties agree, an experienced mediator from OCRC’s mediation team will schedule a mediation within 30 days. If a mutually satisfactory settlement is reached the case is closed. If a settlement is not reached, the mediator will refer the case back to be investigated.  When the investigator has accumulated enough evidence to support a recommendation, it is submitted in written form to the investigator’s supervisor, then to the Regional Director, and finally to the Commissioners, who must approve the report before it becomes the official finding of the Commission.

When the information obtained during the course of the investigation is insufficient to substantiate the charge of discrimination, the Commission must make a finding that it is NOT PROBABLE that a violation of law has occurred. The Commission will then dismiss the charge with a finding of NO PROBABLE CAUSE.When the information is sufficient to substantiate that discrimination has occurred, the investigator will recommend that the Commission make a finding that it is PROBABLE that a violation of the law has occurred. This is a PROBABLE CAUSE finding.The Commission has the authority to demand access to records, premises, documents, evidence or possible sources of evidence, and to record testimony or statements from individuals. Further, the agency has the right to issue Subpoenas, Interrogatories, Cease and Desist Orders, hold Public Hearings, and collect monetary benefits.The Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Section, represents the Commission in all matters of litigation.