“Wrongful termination” refers to the unlawful termination of an employee. While a wrongful termination suit may be based on any one of many different possible legal violations, it is important to note that not every unfair termination is grounds for a wrongful termination claim.
In Ohio, as in most other states, employment is “at will.” That means that under Ohio law, an employee is generally free to quit his or her job for any reason. Similarly, an employer may generally terminate an employee for any reason—or even for no reason—as long as the reason doesn’t violate the law.
Unlawful Termination in Ohio
Discrimination in Violation of State or Federal Law
One common basis for wrongful termination claims is discrimination on the basis of a legally protected characteristic.
For example, Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from terminating an employee (or taking other negative actions toward that employee) on the basis of any of the following characteristics:
- National origin
In 1978, the statute was amended to add pregnancy to the list of protected characteristics.
Other federal laws provide additional protections for older employees, employees with disabilities, and employees with genetic information employers may deem undesirable.
A similar Ohio statute deems it unlawful discrimination to discharge an employee due to:
- Military Status
- National origin
While each of these different types of discrimination may give rise to a wrongful termination claim, different timelines and administrative requirements apply depending on the nature of the claim and the applicable statute. Therefore, it is wise to seek legal advice as soon as possible after being terminated under circumstances that may constitute illegal discrimination.
A number of state and federal statutes include provisions making it unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because he exercised his legal rights, reported violations, or cooperated with law enforcement or other government officials.
For example, Ohio state law prohibits an employer from terminating or otherwise punishing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Title VII and several other federal statutes, including the Age Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act, include provisions protecting employees from discharge and other punitive action for asserting their rights.
Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report health and safety violations or otherwise cooperate with OSHA investigations.
These are just a few examples of the state and federal laws protecting employees from retaliatory discharge.
Breach of Employment Contract
While most employment in Ohio is “at will,” some employee relationships are governed by contract. Despite the general rule that allows either party to terminate the employment relationship at will without consequences, an employer who fires or lays off an employee in violation of an employment contract may be liable for damages.
In some cases, contractual wrongful termination may be supported by something other than a formal employment contract.
Examples include the company’s employee handbook or internal policy manual.
A local employment lawyer can be the best source of information about whether you may have a wrongful termination claim.
Talk to an Employment Lawyer about Wrongful Termination
Not every employee who feels that he or she has been terminated unfairly has a wrongful termination claim. However, state and federal law protect employees under a wide range of circumstances.
If you have been terminated from employment and believe that your employer was motivated by race, religion, or another protected characteristic, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced Ohio employment lawyer right away.
Likewise, if you have been fired without clear justification in the wake of a discrimination claim or other exercise of your legal rights, or if you have been terminated in violation of an employment contract, seek professional guidance today.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation