Wrongful Termination Defense
Feb. 22, 2023
Terminating an employee from work can be stressful for everyone involved. However, when that employee believes they are wrongfully terminated, this can create even more complications. Maybe you’re a recently-fired employee, and you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated: what are your next steps, and what are you up against? Or, if you’re a business owner accused of wrongful termination, you want to know your rights and options.
At Duwel Law, we support business owners and employees in Dayton, Ohio, to get the fair defense they deserve. We also proudly serve those throughout Montgomery County, Miami County, Greene County, Drake County, and Warren County with diligent legal counsel, striving to give you the best service possible.
What Is Wrongful Termination in Ohio?
According to estimates, a wrongful termination suit can cost up to $250,000. This amount can financially cripple any business, especially since most business liability insurance policies do not cover wrongful termination suits.
A wrongful termination generally occurs when an employer dismisses an employee without just cause. Moreover, the issue becomes more complicated if there is suspicion of ulterior motives behind the dismissal. For instance, termination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation constitutes discrimination. Dismissing an employee for these reasons can lead to serious legal consequences.
Please bear in mind that a justified dismissal occurs on the grounds of employee performance, violation of company policies, or engaging in illegal or unethical behavior.
When Is It Wrongful to Terminate an Employee in Ohio?
Here is a look at the grounds that constitute a wrongful termination in Ohio.
Termination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs does not justify dismissing an employee. For instance, firing an employee because management does not approve of their sexual orientation is a discriminatory practice.
Retaliation occurs when the company fires an employee in response to an incident or situation where the employee engaged in a protected activity. For example, an employee files a sexual harassment complaint. The company is investigated and found liable for misconduct. The company then fires the employee in retaliation for their complaint. Being fired for retaliation can have serious legal consequences for individual managers and the corporation.
Violating Public Policy
Employers are not permitted to fire an employee when the dismissal would violate a public policy, such as a constitutional right. For example, firing an employee for exercising their right to free speech may constitute a wrongful termination.
Firing an employee in violation of written or implied promises may constitute a wrongful termination. For instance, an employee signs a one-year contract. The contract states the employee can only be dismissed for the reasons stated in the contract. Consequently, firing an employee for any other reason may be considered a violation of a written promise.
An implied promise refers to things said during job interviews or onboarding. For example, verbal assurances of job security may become misconstrued as implied promises. This situation could lead to a wrongful termination suit. Therefore, management must avoid making inaccurate claims about working conditions when interviewing or onboarding employees.
Whistleblowing occurs when an employee denounces illegal or unethical practices in the workplace. For instance, an employee files a complaint indicating the company has engaged in tax evasion. This example highlights how getting fired for whistleblowing may lead to a wrongful termination suit.
Constructive discharge occurs when employers make the environment hostile or intolerable so that employees quit instead of being fired. Wrongful termination occurs when the company uses constructive discharge to coerce employees to retire or quit. Please note that constructive discharge claims can be tough to prove, as the employee needs to demonstrate the company’s willful commitment to creating intolerable working conditions.
Employers have the right to a fair defense. That is why employers must seek professional legal counsel to guide them through the wrongful termination proceedings. There are a few important things to note about employer defense rights:
Employers have the right to present evidence documenting the reasons for the dismissal. Doing so shifts the burden of proof on the employee.
Employers have the right to seek compensation when employees file a wrongful termination suit unfairly. In particular, employers can ask for legal fees and court costs.
Defense Strategies for Wrongful Termination
For both employers and employees, it’s important that you can build a strong defense strategy. Some solid defense strategies for wrongful termination include the following:
Carefully Worded Policies
Reviewing documentation such as employee contracts, handbooks, manuals, and policy guides are crucial to ensuring transparency. In doing so, employers can avoid employees using vague policies and documentation in their favor.
Employers and employees must strive to document as much of employee performance as possible. Performance reviews, appraisals, timesheets, leave requests, complaints, in short, everything. In doing so, the judge can determine if the justification for an employee’s dismissal was wrongful or legally sound.
Above all, following established procedures is crucial. Any deviation from policy or “special cases” can open the door to wrongful termination suits. Employers must follow the fair application of policies at all times.
Comprehensive Legal Guidance
From our Duwel Law office in Dayton, Ohio, our skilled wrongful termination defense attorneys strive to provide comprehensive legal guidance. We believe in giving our clients the tools they need to protect their right to a fair defense, so reach out today.