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Monday, January 5, 2015

 

Ohio Employer Alert

Ohio employers should take note of a new decision from one of Ohio’s most important appellate courts, the Tenth District in Franklin County. The decision makes it increasingly risky for an Ohio employer to discharge an employee with a history of reporting general workplace safety concerns, including even those related to customer safety. It also opens the door to even more litigation against employers.

There are two particularly troubling aspects of Blackburn v. American Dental Centers. First, the Tenth District created a new basis for “wrongful discharge in violation of public policy,” relying on Ohio’s general workplace safety statutes (R.C. 4101.11 and R.C. 4101.12) to find that Ohio public policy prohibits terminating employees for reporting conduct and practices that present safety risks to employees or patrons of the business. Such a policy had not been recognized in the past by Ohio courts. It also goes beyond prior case law establishing that Ohio public policy prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who file specific Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) complaints concerning unsafe or unhealthy workplace conditions. In effect, then, this aspect of the Blackburn decision creates an additional basis for these “wrongful discharge” claims in Ohio, thereby increasing risk for employers faced with termination decisions related to employees who reported even general workplace safety concerns in the past.


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