Labor & Employment Law

Employment law covers a wide range of topics. Generally, employment law includes legal issues pertaining to wrongful termination or wrongful discharge, discrimination based upon age, disability, race, sex or pregnancy, harassment including sexual harassment in a work place or employer created hostile environments, wage and hour claims, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) legal issues, and whistleblower cases. Some cases might also involve breach of contract claims if the employee has an employment contract (agreement negotiated with the employer), or a collective bargaining contract. There may be legal issues involving a government worker protected under civil service statutes.

Unless an employee has a specific employment contract, union contract or is protected by civil service, all other employer-employee relationships are generally considered “employment-at-will”. This refers to the legal assumption that, in the absence of a contractual specification that employment shall be of some definite duration, the employment can be terminated by either the employer or the employee at any time, for any reason, without legal liability. In other words, the general rule is the employer has the basic right to hire and fire an employee with or without cause, with or without notice, at any time. This is primarily due to the American doctrine that our society is more productive with a basically free enterprise system to allow employers and employees to fill job positions. It is not against the law for an employer or management to be a jerk, to be heartless, to be greedy, or to be hard-nosed. However, illegal acts by the employer in an employment setting can give rise to legal action by the employee. Over the years, there have been restrictions placed upon at-will employment by federal law and by Ohio law both by statutes and by judicial decisions. Federal statutory restrictions include the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Federal Civil Rights and Employment Discrimination laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age and Discrimination Employment Act, American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), ERISA, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (whistle blower protection). Ohio statutory restrictions on employment at-will include the Ohio Civil Rights Act, the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Non-Retaliation Provision, and the Ohio Whistle Blower Protection Act.

Unlawful discrimination or harassment in the employment setting can be flagrant or subtle. Discrimination actions are often brought up in a claim either to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While these agencies are well equipped to investigate a claim for probable cause, they are overworked and do not work for the injured party but for the government. Furthermore, the remedies handed down by the agencies are limited to job reinstatement with back pay. It requires an experienced employment law attorney to help you recover damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, mental anguish, retaliation, embarrassment, inconvenience and other related losses. Furthermore, once the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has ruled on your case, you are prohibited from making a claim in Court over the same issues.

Sexual harassment at work occurs whenever unwelcome conduct on the basis of gender affects a person’s job. It is defined by the EEOC as unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:; (1) submission of the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, or (2) submission to or rejection of the conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or, (3) the conduct has a purpose of effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. The first type of unlawful sexual harassment can be committed only be someone who can make or effectively influence employment actions (such as firing, demotion, denial of promotion) that will affect the victimized employee. A second type of unlawful sexual harassment is referred to as hostile environment. Unlike a quid pro quo which only a supervisor can impose, a hostile environment can result from the gender-based unwelcome conduct of supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors or anyone else with whom the victimized employee interacts on a job. There are specific behaviors which contribute to a hostile environment.

Under both Ohio and federal law, there may be a claim against an employer for discriminatory or unlawful acts leading to retaliation against the employee. If an employee files a charge for discrimination or files a complaint of employer’s violation of safety laws or reports other illegal activities (ie., a whistleblower) or files for Workers’ Compensation benefits under the Ohio Workers’ Compensation law or unemployment compensation with ODJFS, that employer cannot take any illegal adverse action against that employee at his/her job be it termination, demotion or reassignment if such retaliation is directly caused by an employee’s claim or complaint against that employer. A resignation by the employee can make it very difficult to successfully pursue legal action against that employer unless that employee can provide clear evidence that no reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities would have continued to work under the employer’s work conditions. In other words, the burden of proof is upon the employee who voluntarily resigned to establish that continued employment would subject that employee to the risk, embarrassment, humiliation and personal threats that result in carrying out the employer’s demands.

In Ohio, the filing of civil actions against the employer range from 30 days in some cases to as long as 15 or more years. Federal laws have specific statute of limitations for filing claims. Generally speaking, the Statute of Limitation period begins to run to the date the employee knew or should have known the facts that he or she reasonably could have determined to serve as the basis for the claim. If the lawsuit is filed after the Statute of Limitations period expires and the case is barred from being pursued in Court, the employee’s rights are forever barred.


Disclaimer: Material provided in this website is for informational purposes only. Visiting a website does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and any lawyer in our law firm. The information on this website does not constitute legal advice and does not intend to address any specific case.


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