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OCRC's History

A Historical Perspective of Ohio's Laws Against Discrimination

Ohio has one of the longest histories of civil rights enforcement in the country. The Ohio Public Accommodations Law of 1884 was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race in all public facilities. This law applied to movie theaters, stores and restaurants. More than 70 years later in 1959 Ohio became the 16th state to ratify legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin and ancestry. Ohio's Fair Employment Practices Law was championed under the leadership of Ohio Governor C.W. O'Neil and was signed into law on July 29, 1959 by Governor Michael V. DiSalle as the Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959.  

This new law established Ohio’s Fair Employment Practices Commission - charged with enforcing Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination. In 1961, the Ohio General Assembly renamed the agency the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC). While primarily concerned with discrimination in employment, the Ohio legislature granted discretionary authority to study, advise and issue statements regarding all civil rights related matters of the state.

Powers and Duties of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission

The general powers and duties of the Commission are to receive, investigate, render formal determinations and conciliate charges of unlawful discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and disability in institutions of higher education.  It is the Commission’s responsibility to educate constituents and stakeholders about Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination.  The Commission prepares a comprehensive educational program for the students of Ohio’s public schools.  These programs are designed to eliminate prejudice, its harmful effects and its incompatibility with American principles of equality and fair play. The Commission receives and investigates thousands of official charges of discrimination each year.

Chronology of Historical Highlights:

July 29, 1959: Ohio Fair Employment Practices Commission established

1961: Agency name changed to Ohio Civil Rights Commission

1961: Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination amended to include the prohibition of religious discrimination

1965: Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination amended to include protections against discrimination in housing

1976: Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination amended to include protections against discrimination in the issuance of credit

1978: The OCRC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enter into a Work Sharing Agreement which provides dual filing for employment charges

1984: Ohio’s Laws Against Discrimination amended to include the prohibition of discrimination against the disabled in institutions of higher education

1988: OCRC and U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) enter into a Work Sharing Agreement to eradicate housing discrimination

1992: Amended Substitute H.B. 321 brought Ohio’s fair housing statute into conformity with federal fair housing legislation by adding “familial status” to the protected classes and a one year filing period for housing discrimination charges

1998: Introduction of an Alternative Dispute Resolution program. During the first year, 73% of all participating in the process were successfully mediated 

1999:  Alternative Dispute Resolution program recognized by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development with a national “Best Practices” award

2008: Military Status added to protected classes

2009: Ohio Civil Rights Commission celebrates 50th Anniversary

2009: Annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame established. The program acknowledges outstanding Ohioans who are pioneers in human and civil rights and who have advanced the goals of equality and inclusion

For additional information about Ohio's history regarding the laws against discrimination, click here.

For a list of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission's Commissioners, Executive Directors and Regional Directors from 1959-2017, click here.