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Public Sector Employment

Columbus State and County Employment Law Attorneys

Ohio Public Employees

Unlike employees in the private sector, Ohio's public employees working within the Ohio Civil Service have extensive and specific rights. These rights are listed in the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code. Ohio public employees can be grouped into three different categories:

  • Public employees in the classified civil service and not covered by a union agreement
  • Public employees in the classified civil service covered by a union agreement
  • Public employees in the unclassified civil service

Each group listed above is treated differently under Ohio law regarding hiring, firing, and changes in the terms and conditions of employment.

Unclassified Employees

Public employees in the unclassified civil service have the fewest of protections and are most like their counterparts in the private sector. Unfortunately, unclassified employees can usually be terminated without cause and serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority (i.e. department director, governor, mayor, etc.). Ohio Revised Code Section 124.11, lists those public employees that are in the unclassified civil service. The law names specific positions that are unclassified, such as:

  • Officers elected by popular vote
  • Heads of principal departments, boards and commissions appointed by the governor or a mayor
  • Assistants to the attorney general
  • Assistants to county prosecuting attorneys
  • Fire Chiefs
  • Chiefs of Police public employees are considered within the classified service
  • For other specific positions see Ohio Revised Code 124.11.

In addition to the above laundry list of specific positions listed as unclassified, Ohio Revised Code Section 124.11(A) (9) also places within the unclassified service:

The deputies and assistants of state agencies authorized to act for and on behalf of the agency, or holding a fiduciary or administrative relation to that agency and those persons employed by and directly responsible to elected county officials or a county administrator and holding a fiduciary or administrative relationship to such elected county officials or county administrator, and the employees of such county officials whose fitness would be impracticable to determine by competitive examination. . .

For this provision, the case law has determined that an employee's actual job duties are generally the determinative factor of whether an employee's position is unclassified pursuant to Section 124.11(A)(9). The term "fiduciary" has been defined many times over by the courts and in summary, the term requires the employee to complete the assigned job duties with a high degree of trust confidence, reliance, integrity and fidelity, above and beyond the technical competence required to complete the job. State, ex rel. Charlton v. Corrigan (1988), 36 Ohio St. 3d 68, 71. NOTE THIS CAREFULLY: if your position is listed as unclassified by your employer because of 124.11(A)(9) this means you may actually be in the classified civil service even if you were hired in the unclassified service, your position is referred to by your employer as unclassified; or even if you were treated as unclassified. If you are having issues with your employment and are listed as unclassified because of 124.11(A)(9), then you should seek the advice of the attorney of your choice or contact us as you may actually be a classified employee under Ohio law with many more rights regardless of what your employer says.

Classified Employees

Ohio Revised Code Section 124.11(B) defines classified employees as follows:

The classified service shall comprise all persons in the employ of the state and the several counties, cities, city health districts, general health districts, and city school districts thereof, not specifically included in the unclassified service. Upon the creation by the board of trustees of a civil service township civil service commission, the classified service shall also comprise, [with some exceptions] all persons in the employ of civil service township police or fire departments having ten or more full-time paid employees.

Ohio public employees in the classified civil service have specific legal protections regarding unwarranted discipline, termination, layoff, transfer, and other changes in the terms and conditions of employment. The main source of protection for Ohio public employees in the classified civil service can be found in the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 124. Ohio Revised Code Section 124.34, states that:

The tenure of every officer or employee in the classified service of the state and the counties, civil service townships, cities, city health districts, general health districts, and city school districts of the state, holding a position under this chapter, shall be during good behavior and efficient service. No such officer or employee shall be reduced in pay or position, fined in excess of five days' pay, suspended, or removed, except as provided in section 124.32 of the Revised Code, and for incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, drunkenness, immoral conduct, insubordination, discourteous treatment of the public, neglect of duty, violation of this chapter or the rules of the director of administrative services or the commission, any other failure of good behavior, any other acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or conviction of a felony.

Generally, this means that classified employees can only be removed for good cause. Further, the courts have determined that Ohio classified employees have a property interest in their positions and cannot be removed from their positions without "due process of law." Due process usually means that classified employees are entitled to reasonable notice and a hearing with their employer before any significant disciplinary action is taken.

Ohio public employees in the classified civil service who are not covered by a union bargaining agreement, have a right to appeal suspensions, terminations, disability separations, layoffs, abolishments, displacements, reclassifications, transfers, and reductions in pay or position to the Ohio State Personnel Board of Review located at the following address:

State Personnel Board of Review
65 East State Street, 12th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Phone (614) 466-7046
Fax (614) 466-6539

The time limit for filing appeals with the State Personnel Board of Review is extremely short and are generally as follows:

  • Termination: Within 10 days after filing of the order with the SPBR.
  • Layoffs, Abolishments, and Displacements: Within 10 days after receipt of notice of action.
  • Reclassifications: Within 30 days after receipt of notice of action.
  • Transfers: Within 10 days after receipt of notice of transfer.

Every classified employee should have a copy of the State Personnel Board of Review Administrative Rules, and read them.

Classified Employees Covered by a Union Bargaining Agreement

For those Ohio public employees covered by a union's bargaining agreement, the majority of your rights regarding the terms and conditions of employment are set out in your union's bargaining agreement. As each bargaining agreement may contain different grievance procedures, consult your union contract or union steward for more information.

Federal Employees in The Federal Civil Service

Ohio is home to many federal agencies, military bases and employers. Federal employees have a complex and extensive series of employment protections that are too lengthy to discuss here.

For more information, contact a lawyer at our firm. From our office in Dublin, we represent clients throughout the Columbus metro area and central Ohio.

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Suite 420
Dublin, OH 43017
Phone: 614-467-4923
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Fax: 614-760-8654
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