Ohio Employment Law Legal Information
Ohio has a policy of "at-will" employment, meaning that if the employer is not contractually obligated to an employee, the employer can fire the employee (and the employee can quit) for almost any reason whatsoever.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. An employer cannot fire an employee for any reason that is discriminatory, retaliatory, or in violation of public policy. In addition, an employer cannot refuse to hire a potential employee for a discriminatory reason.
Under both Ohio and Federal Law, employers cannot not fire (or refuse to hire) a person on the basis of: race / color, national origin, gender, age, religious affiliation, disability, genetic information. In addition, employers cannot treat employees differently on the basis of the aforementioned factors. The various federal anti-discrimination laws include:
- The Federal Laws that deal with employment discrimination are:
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
- Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (federal employees)
- Equal Pay Act of 1963
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Genetic Information Act of 2008
Gender discrimination also applies when a woman is discriminated against because of her pregnancy status. Since women are the only people who can become pregnant, the United States Supreme Court has held that pregnancy discrimination is akin to gender discrimination under Federal Law. Ohio has adopted this ruling under state law as well.
If you feel you have been discriminated against for these reasons, then you need to see a lawyer to discuss your options to determine whether your claim is valid and whether it should be brought in state or federal court. A lawyer is needed for such decisions as state and federal discrimination laws have different (but sometimes overlapping) procedures.
Employers are prohibited from firing a person in retaliation (also known as "retaliatory discharge"). Such acts include termination for: 1) filing a claim with a state or federal agency (Bureau of Worker's Compensation, OSHA, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ohio Civil Rights Commission); 2) engaging in lawfully protected activities; and 3) lodging legitimate complaints of employer wrongdoing (i.e. "whistle blowing).
Both state and federal agencies have prohibitions against employers who terminate employees who file claims with that agency. In addition, employers who terminate workers who file claims of discrimination are liable for damages for retaliatory discharge, regardless of any finding of discrimination against the employee who lodged the complaint.
Violation of Public Policy
Discharge in violation of public policy is a state-based claim and can sometimes overlap with a retaliatory discharge claim. In Greeley v. Miami Valley, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the "at-will" employment doctrine does not apply if an employer terminates an employee which violates a stated public policy. Such a policy may be: 1) a constitutional right (i.e. voting); 2) a statutory right (i.e. filing for worker's compensation claim); 3) a legal duty (i.e. serving on a jury). Based on this claim, and employer is prohibited from firing an employee if that employee refuses to perform an illegal act (i.e. refusing to commit perjury).