Termination of Employment

Termination of Employment - 6/27/08

Intro: An employee at a Cracker Barrel, Mr. Humphries, believed that one of his co-workers had been fired because of her race. So he complained to his boss. What was Humphries reward for trying to do the right thing? He was fired. Is this type of retaliation legal? Here to tell us about a recent Supreme Court case that answered this question is attorney Michael L. Solomon.

Jeff: Mike, what's the law say about retaliatory firings?

Mike: The U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision last month, ruled that federal civil rights laws prevent an employee who complains about race discrimination from being fired. If you are fired, demoted, or otherwise treated unfairly because you reported race discrimination in your company, you have the right to sue.

Jeff: The Supreme Court case involved race discrimination. Does the prohibition against retaliation apply to other types of discrimination too?

Mike: Yes. You cannot be retaliated against if you report sex, age, or any unlawful discrimination. Ohio also has a whistleblower law that protects employees who are fired, demoted, or otherwise treated unfairly because they reported some illegal activity by their employer. These legal protections are designed to encourage employees to point out violations of the law on the job.

Jeff: Since we have legal protections against retaliation, should employees have any concern about complaining about their employers?

Mike: Unfortunately employees still need to be very careful. Even if you are correct about your complaint, if you are terminated, you are going to have to bring legal action which can be aggravating and time consuming. Most cases brought by employees are on a contingency basis, which means you don't owe legal fees unless you win. But you still have a risk of not being able to prove your case. And you've been fired! Also Ohio law has a very short time period to take action. Many times as short as 180 days. So if you do feel you've been fired in retaliation for bringing up certain issues you need to move quickly.

For more information, contact the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. In Cleveland, the number is 216-787-3150, and the website is: www/state/oh.us/crc.