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Understanding Ohio’s Employment Laws

Last updated on October 31, 2023

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.

Discrimination

Under both Ohio and federal law, employers cannot fire (or refuse to hire) a person on the basis of race/color, national origin, gender, age, religious affiliation, disability and genetic information. In addition, employers cannot treat employees differently on the basis of the aforementioned factors. The various federal anti-discrimination laws include:

  • 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

Pregnancy Discrimination

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 employment law concerns, determine whether your claim is valid and determine 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.

Retaliation

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 Workers’ 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., whistleblowing).

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 (voting); 2) a statutory right (filing for workers’ compensation claim); 3) a legal duty (serving on a jury). Based on this claim, an employer is prohibited from firing an employee if that employee refuses to perform an illegal act (refusing to commit perjury).

Do You Believe You Have An Employment Law Claim? Contact Us Today.

Before you take legal action, learn about your options and possible outcomes. Arrange your private consultation with a skilled employment law attorney by calling 330-931-3281 or emailing Justin C. Miller Esq. today.