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Wrongful termination in Ohio

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Wrongful termination |

Wrongful termination can be straightforward – being fired for an illegal reason. However, it may not be that straightforward in an at-will state like Ohio. In the state, an employee or an employer can terminate employment for any reason that is not contrary to the law.

So, when are you wrongfully terminated in Ohio? 

Contractual exceptions

The above-described law only applies if an employer and an employee don’t have a written employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

An employment contract provides in-depth information regarding an employee’s matters, including grounds that may lead to a dismissal. If an employer fires an employee in violation of the agreement terms, they may have breached the contract and, in turn, may have wrongfully dismissed the employee. 

Further, if an employee is under a union that negotiates terms of their employment, including grounds for dismissal, with an employer, they are subject to a CBA. If the employer discharges the employee in a manner inconsistent with the CBA, the employee may seek redress through their union representative.

An employee handbook or a personnel manual can also create a contractual obligation. Since it outlines an employee’s duties, operating procedures and disciplinary actions, it can serve as a valid contract. Accordingly, if an employee is fired contrary to the handbook’s terms, the at-will relationship may change. 

Some employers use clear terms in their employee handbooks stating it’s not a contract. Others even request employees to sign a disclaimer that they understand the employee handbook is not a contract. In such instances, an at-will relationship may be maintained.  

Ohio being an at-will employment state does not mean employees can’t file wrongful termination claims. Being well-informed about one’s case is vital in understanding the way forward.