Employment in Ohio
By Michael B. Bowler, Attorney, Blakemore Meeker and Bowler Co., LPA, Akron LIVING WELL Magazine
In these troubled economic times, one large issue in our nation is that of jobs and employment. We, as a nation, are far from full employment. People are losing their jobs, or not being hired for a job in the first place. These individuals are oftentimes interested in knowing their legal rights with respect to their employment situation.
Ohio is what is called an “at will” employment state. In general, this means your employment is at the will of your employer. Your employer may take job action against you, up to and including termination, without a reason. You can be terminated for no reason, or even for a bad reason, as long as certain of your rights are not violated. Many employers require new-hires to sign a disclaimer that explains you are being hired as an “at will” employee and that you understand what that means. This disclaimer that you are asked to sign usually states that nothing in the employee handbook, including any progressive discipline process, changes the fact that your employ is “at will.”
There are a number of exceptions to the “at will” doctrine. If a person has an employment contract, either written or oral, that provides for a certain period of employment, includes language indicating that the employment is not “at will,” or contains language that takes the employment out of the “at will” category, then Ohio courts will uphold the contract. If a worker is a member of a union, the union contract controls the employment relationship between employer and the union members working under that contract.
Another important class of exception to the “at will” employment doctrine is action by an employer, which violates constitutional rights of the employee. As workers in the U.S., we have certain rights classically protected by the U.S. and the Ohio constitution. Employers may not take job action or conduct the workplace in such a manner as to violate these rights. Race, religion, age, disability, and gender are some of the rights protected in the workplace. An “at will” employer is not permitted to violate a worker’s rights in these protected areas.
There are other exceptions to the “at will” doctrine that are recognized in Ohio by the courts and legislature.
A person, who feels they are being treated in violation of their rights in the workplace, should consult an attorney who practices employment law and get a legal opinion as to what their rights are. You may be entitled to legal remedies that could save your job, or get you reinstated to your job with back pay and other damages.
Contact Michael B. Bowler at Blakemore Meeker and Bowler Co., LPA at 330-253-3337.