Dayton police officer immune from liability in sex discrimination case

Court News Ohio reports that the Supreme Court of Ohio reached a decision in the sex discrimination case involving the Dayton Police Department on August 28, finding that accused supervisor, Major E. Mitchell Davis, is immune from liability. The Court ruled that an individual employee cannot be held liable for employment discrimination under R.C. 4112.01(A)(2) and 4112.02(A), as those statutes only provide for vicarious liability for the employer based on the actions of their employees, not individual liability for the employees themselves.

The case involves accusations by police officer Anita Hauser against the Dayton Police Department and Davis, who was her supervisor. Hauser asserts that she was treated differently in her position as K-9 officer because of her age and gender. She specifically alleges that the DPD and Davis imposed certain working conditions, withheld her wages, subjected her to frivolous investigations and denied her opportunities for career advancement during her employment. The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims except for Hauser’s sex discrimination claims and Davis’s claims to immunity. Hauser voluntarily dismissed her claims and Davis appealed the issue of his immunity to the 2nd District Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling regarding Davis’s immunity and certified that this constituted a conflict with the 8th District Court of Appeals. The case proceeded to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Justice French, writing for the majority, stated that R.C. 4112.01(A)(2) and 4112.02(A) do not provide for individual liability, but that other portions of R.C. 4112 which expressly provide for individual liability still apply to individual political subdivision employees. In reaching this decision, the court distinguished its holding in Genaro v. Cent. Transport, Inc., stating that although they had found that an employee could be jointly and severally liable with the employer under R.C. 4112 in that case, the facts differed from the instant case, as the employer inGenaro was private, not public, and the Court did not address the specific issue of express liability and immunity in the Genaro decision.

The opinion was joined by Justices O’Connor and Lanzinger. Justice O’Donnell concurred in judgment only and Justices Pfeifer and O’Neill dissented in an opinion written by Justice Pfeifer. Justice Kennedy dissented separately. The full text of the decision can be found here.

For more information, see the dockets for cases 2013-0493 and 2013-0291.