When Does Wrongful Termination Occur?

When people lose their jobs, many wonder if they have any legal recourse. Almost everyone believes that he or she has been wrongfully terminated.

In Ohio's not too distant past, there was no such thing as wrongful termination. Relationships between employer and employee were not an area government intruded on. Employees were left to fend for themselves for fair treatment against their larger, wealthier and more powerful employers.

The Plight Of The At-Will Employee

During this time, employees literally worked at the "will" of their employers. Out of this, the legal doctrine of "employee at will" came into existence. The "employee at will" doctrine means that nonunion employees in the private sector can be fired by their employers at any time, for cause or for no reason at all.

This doctrine still holds, but there are numerous exceptions made under the law.

Exceptions To The At-Will Employee Concept

The harshness of the employee at will concept led, over the past 30 years, to legislative and common law exceptions. Generally, these exceptions to the "employee at will" doctrine fall into three basic categories:

  • Exceptions based on the laws prohibiting discrimination
  • Exceptions based on the laws of contracts
  • Exceptions based on wrongful termination in violation of Ohio's public policy

Let us look at these three exceptions.

You Cannot Be Fired On The Basis Of Discrimination

The first exception to the "employee at will" doctrine is based on the laws that prohibit discrimination.

Even though a private employer can terminate its employees at any time for cause or for no reason at all, the employer cannot terminate that employee, refuse to hire a potential employee or change the terms and conditions of employment for the employee on the basis of that employee's race, age, sex or national origin or because the employee has a disability.

There are a few other types of prohibited discrimination, such as religious discrimination.

What Is The Law Of Contracts?

The second exception to the "employee at will" doctrine is based on the law of contracts. Basically, this exception protects Ohio employees by making liable:

  • Those Ohio employers that breach specific verbal or written contracts with their employees
  • Those Ohio employers that fail to fulfill specific promises made to employees that the employee relied on to his or her detriment

Can A Private Employer Violate State Or Federal Laws?

The third exception to the "employee at will" doctrine is based on employer conduct that violates Ohio's public policy. This exception protects Ohio employees by prohibiting a private employer from terminating its employees in violation of Ohio's clear public policy as expressed in a state or federal constitution, statute or administrative regulation or in common law.

Contact A Lawyer If You Were Subject To Unlawful Dismissal

Please note that email sent on an employer's computer system will probably be considered property of the employer and may be read or printed by the employer without your permission and could be the subject of discipline.

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