If you live in Ohio and suspect that you have been the victim of wrongful termination, the first thing you should do is to determine what type of employment arrangement you had. Ohio is an "at-will employment" state. This means that, unless explicitly stated, both employer and employee may terminate the employment for any reason (or for no reason at all), as long as it is not illegal to do so.
However, there are some exceptions to the at-will rule. For example, if an Ohio employer fires an employee for discriminatory reasons, a breach of employment contract, or in retaliation for exercising their employee rights, an Ohio employee may have a legal claim against the employer. For discriminatory purposes, Ohio employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, marital status, AIDS/HIV, or sickle cell trait.
Under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee based on a protected characteristic such as race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, and citizenship status.
What are the Grounds for Wrongful Termination in Ohio?
Since Ohio is an at-will state, proving wrongful termination or wrongful discharge can be challenging. However, it is clear that an employer may not fire an employee if the termination violates state or federal laws.
Common examples of wrongful termination include those that are based on violations of discrimination laws (i.e., firing an employee because they belong to a certain race religion, age group, or other protected category). Also, at-will rules do not prevent the parties from forming an explicit written contract. If an employment contract exists and it defines termination procedures, both parties will be held to the contract terms.
Note that even if the employment is at-will, a person can still file a wrongful termination lawsuit based on the following two theories:
- Implied Contract: Sometimes the conduct or oral statements of an employer can create an implied contract. The employee will need to prove that the employer had made specific promises regarding the future of their employment. The employee will also have to prove that they relied on those promises to their detriment or harm. For example, an implied contract may be established from things said or manuals passed out during the hiring orientation.
- Public Policy Violations: Termination of an at-will employment arrangement is illegal if it violates public policy. The employee would need to prove that the termination jeopardized a clear public policy, that the termination was related to the public policy, and that the employer did not have a "legitimate business justification" for the discharge. An example of this is where the employee is fired for reporting the misconduct of the business to an outside authority.
You may consider reading this informative article about How to file a wrongful termination suit
What Remedies and Damages are Available for Wrongful Termination?
The remedies for wrongful discharge or wrongful termination in Ohio are numerous, but will depend on the particular harm that the plaintiff suffered. For example, the employee victim may: be reinstated back to their normal work title, obtain recovery of lost benefits, or obtain back pay for lost wages.
Depending on the severity of the claim, the employer may also be required to pay additional damages such as stress/suffering damages, punitive damages, and legal fees such as attorney fees and court costs.
Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim in Ohio?
Wrongful termination claims in Ohio depend on whether all of the facts that led to the termination would create a wrongful termination. If the employer’s motivation in firing the employee was unlawful, then the employee may bring a wrongful termination claim even if the employee is an at-will employee.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
A qualified Ohio lawyer can provided you more information if there is a legal basis for a claim. He can guide you through the legal process and represent you in court.