Ohio and federal law offer employees protections from their employers. Many of these laws protect employees from what is commonly called “wrongful termination.”
However, these protections often go beyond just wrongful termination alone.
“Wrongful termination” laws and their related statutes also protect employees from unfair treatment because of employees’, race, religion, sex, disability, or other immutable characteristics. Some of these laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, provide additional protections to employees who suffer from chronic and serious medical conditions.
These laws protect employees from retaliation if they engage in certain activities protected by law, such as requesting accommodations, reporting workplace safety violations, discussing wages, union organizing, or seeking workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio.
Finally, Ohio law governs the contents of certain agreements between employees and employers, such as non-competition agreements and severance agreements.
The Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers and wrongful termination attorneys at The Bainbridge Firm, LLC, represent employees against employers who violate these laws by assisting clients with filing charges of discrimination, negotiating severance agreements, requesting accommodations, and reviewing and understanding employment agreements.
If you have a question about your employment rights, or how your employer is treating you, call our office for a free consultation.
Employment Discrimination Law
Employment discrimination in Ohio occurs when an employer subjects an employee to discharge, fails to hire them, demotes them, or otherwise treats them differently because they belong to a “protected class.”
Some of the classes protected by Ohio and federal law include are:
- National Origin
- Sex (including orientation and gender identity)
- Military Status
Federal and state employment law requires that employers treat employees equally in these respects. If you think your employer is targeting you in some way because you are in one of these protected classes, you may have a claim for discrimination and you should talk to an employment discrimination attorney in Ohio.
Usually, employers do not admit that they are treating an employee differently because of race or gender. Instead, employees start to notice that they are being treated differently than other individuals who are outside their protected class.
For example, an employer may terminate an employee in a protected class for the same conduct the employer considered acceptable for an employee outside of that protected class. Sometimes employers will attempt to cover up such employment discrimination by providing a reason that is untrue.
Workplace Harassment Laws in Ohio
Workplace harassment occurs when an employer subjects an employee to conduct so severe or pervasive that it results in an abusive workplace, otherwise called a “hostile work environment.”
However, an abusive employer is not enough to establish a claim for workplace harassment in and of itself. An employee must also show they have been subjected to that hostile work environment because of their race, age, sex, disability, national origin, religion, or other protected characteristics.
People often think that workplace harassment law only applies to harassment that is sexual in nature, but that is not the case. Sexual harassment is only one of the many sources of workplace harassment lawyers can help with. Employees who find themselves subjected to consistent racist or ageist comments and remarks may also have a claim for harassment.
In a workplace harassment case, an employee must also show that he or she was subjected to conduct that is so severe or pervasive that it interfered with their work performance. Whether an employer’s conduct meets this standard depends on the facts of each case.
If you think your employer is subjecting you to a hostile work environment, you should discuss the situation with an Ohio workplace harassment attorney.
Legal Employee Accommodations
Employees are legally entitled to work accommodations in some situations. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer reasonable employee accommodations for workers with disabilities.
An employee has a disability when they suffer from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits them in a major life activity. This is a broad definition, which can include conditions such as anxiety and depression, chronic injuries that limit someone’s ability to move, and illnesses that affect bodily functions, such as diabetes and epilepsy.
An employer is legally required to provide employee accommodations to those suffering from these conditions to allow them to perform their job adequately. This can come in the form of unpaid leave for treatment, the delegation of certain non-essential job duties to other employees, or special equipment that allows the employee to perform the tasks themselves.
Like the ADA, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid, job-protected leave as an eligible legal employee accommodation for eligible workers who are suffering from serious health conditions. In this context, a serious health condition may require inpatient care or continuing treatment. It also provides leave to employees who need to take time off work due to the birth or adoption of a child, to care for that child, or to care for a spouse, child, or parent.
The FMLA covers fewer employees than the ADA because the FMLA only applies to certain employers and employees. Specifically, the FMLA only applies to “covered employers” that fall within one of the following categories:
- Private-sector employers with 50 or employees during at least 20 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year;
- Public agencies, including local, state, and Federal government agencies, regardless of the number of employees; and
- Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees.
Additionally, the FMLA is only available to eligible employees who meet the following criteria:
- Works for a covered employer;
- Has worked for the covered employer for at least 12 months;
- has worked at least 1,250 hours for the covered employer in the 12 months prior to the leave; and
- works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
The only employee accommodation available under the FMLA is unpaid leave.
Title VII provides employee accommodations for individuals who need them for religious reasons. For example, if your religion forbids you from working on a certain day of the week, your employer may be required to offer you a schedule that does not require you to work that specific day.
An employee accommodation can also allow an employee to deviate from strict dress codes for religious reasons, or keep a beard, if necessary. Finally, employers should offer breaks for short prayers at work.
If you find that your employer is not accommodating to your needs or those of a co-worker, you should contact an employment lawyer in Ohio, especially if you have already discussed the matter with your employer and they have not fixed the problem.
Employee Retaliation Law
Many statutes protect employees from being punished for asserting their rights and seeking legal protections, known as “protected activity.”
For example, anti-discrimination statutes often prevent employers from taking corrective actions against employees who have reported unlawful workplace discrimination or workplace harassment to a lawyer or oversight board.
Similarly, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs fair payment practices for employers, forbids employee retaliation against those who report wage payment violations, such as unpaid overtime.
Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers can also help when employers terminate, demote, reassign, or take other punitive actions against employees if they file, attempt to file, or otherwise pursue a workers’ compensation claim in Ohio. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has a provision shielding workers from unlawful employee retaliation as well.
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While statutes do not protect against all employee retaliation in the workplace, courts have stepped in and provided additional protections. For example, courts have found that an employer cannot terminate an employee for reporting violations of workplace safety or exercising their right to consult with an employment attorney in Ohio.
These rules are considered an exception to the “at-will employment” doctrine, which typically allows an employer to terminate an employee for any reason. Courts have explicitly rejected the at-will employment doctrine in other situations where the intent behind the law would be frustrated.
If you feel that an employer discharged you because you reported fraud, attempted to correct a workplace safety violation, reported discriminatory practices, spoke about unfair payment practices, or engaged in any activity that could be protected by law, then you should consult with one of our employment attorneys in Ohio immediately. There are many kinds of protected activity, and you should explore your options as soon as possible.