Understanding Ohio Employment Law

You have the right to a safe, healthy, and productive work environment which is free from harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately, sometimes you may encounter unfair employment situations or be wrongfully fired. If you feel you are being harassed or were wrongfully fired, you have many have rights under Ohio and federal laws. But how exactly do you know whether you've been wrongfully terminated or whether you have a legitimate claim for harassment? Here is a brief overview of what you should know.


At-Will Employment

Absent an employment contract or being a member of a labor union, the majority of employees in Ohio are considered to be "at-will" employees. "At-will" essentially means that either party - the employer or the employee - may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. The "at will" nature of employment also means that if your employer gives you a reason for terminating you, they do not have to correct and it does not need to be fair.

Examples of Wrongful Termination and Harassment

While "at will" employment makes wrongful termination claims challenging, there are many ways in which you can be terminated from your job that are against the law. Ohio and federal law protect employees from being terminated because of their age, race, gender, national origin, religion, because they are pregnant, or because they have a disability. In order to prove these types of discrimination cases, you must present evidence that the reason for your termination was because you were a member of one of the protected classes named above. These types of discrimination claims can also arise in the hiring process as well.

Ohio law also protects employees from retaliation when they exercise their rights. For example, if you are injured on the job, your employer cannot terminate you for filing a workers' compensation claim. Your employer can also not terminate you for reporting instances of sexual harassment to management or reporting unlawful activities by your co-workers.

Your workplace should be free from harassment. Some examples of harassment include: 1) sexually vulgar questions, hand signs, or comments directed at an individual; 2) unwelcome repeated sexual advances or blatant requests for sex; 3) repeated or explicit touching or groping or sexual assault; or 4) threats of termination or offers of advancement in exchange for sexual favors.

Sometimes such harassment will not be as blatant, though, and consist of more indirect actions. For instance, frequent sexual jokes and innuendos, sexual materials on display in the office, and even veiled offers of quid-pro-quo ("do this for me and I'll do this for you") arrangements often contribute to a hostile work environment and may constitute sexual harassment. If you work in an environment where these types of behaviors are prevalent, you could have a claim against your employer for failing to stop the behavior. Importantly, though, you must have reported the behavior or the comments to your employer. This is known as placing them on "notice." Absent notice, your employer cannot be expected to correct or even know about the behavior. If the harassing employee is your direct supervisor, be sure to speak with your human resource department or your supervisor's boss and keep a written record these reports. If the conduct stops for a brief period of time, but starts again, be sure to continue making written reports about it to protect yourself and to keep your employer on notice that the behavior is continuing.

Who Can I Talk to About my Employment Situation?

It is common for those who feel their civil rights were violated or have been the victim of employment discrimination to be hesitant to seek justice or ashamed that it has happened. The attorneys of Rittgers & Rittgers have the experience necessary to advocate aggressively for you while remaining sensitive to your feelings and emotions. If you feel you've been wrongfully terminated, call today to discuss your case.