Retaliatory discharge for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim in Columbus, Ohio
The general rule is that Ohio is an employment at-will state. That means that an at-will employee can be terminated at any time for any reason. The reason might be good, or it might be bad. It doesn’t really matter. If an employer wants to get rid of an employee, the employee generally has no recourse. In the context of Ohio employment law, unfair or unethical conduct generally isn’t actionable. General exceptions to the at-will rule involve government and union employees. Other exceptions exist too, and one of them involves an employee who has filed for workers’ compensation benefits.
If an employee of a company is injured during the course and scope of their employment by an anticipated and foreseeable risk of that employment, they can seek benefits under the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Act. It’s generally against Ohio law for an employer to discharge an employee for filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. That’s known as a wrongful or retaliatory discharge. The same laws that protect an employee from a wrongful or retaliatory termination also prohibit an employer from demoting an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The Ohio Supreme Court has held that such a retaliatory termination is a clear violation of public policy based on statutes, regulations and case law.
To prove that violation of public policy, the former or demoted employee would be required to prove that indeed a public policy existed, public policy would be jeopardized or violated by the employer’s conduct, and the discharge was motivated by conduct contemplated by public policy. Then it must be shown that there wasn’t a legitimate business reason for the discharge.
The law of wrongful termination in Ohio is relatively young, but it continues to develop. Employees have been given broad protection when they’ve been able to show that they have been harmed. Should an employer be contemplating the discharge of an employee in retaliation for filing a legitimate workers’ compensation claim, the possible damages claims by the employee can have a very chilling effect. Employers need to be very careful about what they do with employees who have filed legitimate Workers’ Compensation claims.