Question

Can my employer fire me after I am injured at work in Ohio?

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Daniel A. Romaine - Personal Injury - General - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Daniel A. Romaine

Located in Euclid, OHNager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., L.P.A.

Euclid, OH
Phone: 800-743-2797
Fax: 216-289-4743

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Answer

Ohio, like many other states, is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that your employer can fire you (or you can quit) without warning or reason, and for no reason whatsoever. However, if you have been injured and have already filed for workers’ compensation, Ohio law protects you from retaliatory acts by your employer based on that filing, including termination. It is illegal in Ohio for an employer to take any of the following actions if they are motivated by an employee filing a workers’ compensation claim:

  • Decrease in wages or benefits
  • Negative scheduling actions (for example, putting a day worker on the night shift)
  • Harassments, threats or intimidation
  • Giving the injured employee a poor performance review
  • Firing the employee

While this legal protection is reassuring, be aware that it is not all-encompassing. Your employer may choose to lay you off if downsizing is happening in your organization, or they can fire you for reasons unrelated to the injury or receiving workers’ compensation. This is related to the “at-will” employment concept. While you have legal protection to receive workers’ compensation, beyond that, you are like every other employee. There is no ongoing guarantee of employment in most cases in Ohio. You will, however, continue to receive benefits as long as you are rated by your doctor as medically unable to return to work, even with duty restrictions.

You may also ask, “what if you were fired after your work injury, but before you had a chance to file for workers’ comp benefits?” In 2011, the Ohio Supreme Court recognized a “public policy exception” to at-will employment related to this type of situation in Sutton v. Tomco Machine, Inc. In this case, a machine worker was fired within an hour of his injury. He was given essentially no reason for his firing. The high court held that the injured worker had a right to file a claim for wrongful termination in civil court, since Ohio law did not expressly protect injured workers before they filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Hiring a lawyer to help you with the entire workers’ compensation claim process is a good idea. They can help you file the paperwork properly and can advise you of your rights under Ohio law if your employer takes negative or retaliatory action against you for filing your claim. If the case ends up being litigated, you may win reinstatement and back pay if you were fired, or damages that include lost wages if you were demoted or suffered another type of pay cut. It also signals to your employer (and their workers’ compensation insurer) that you have legal counsel to back up your claim and are unlikely to be intimidated by inappropriate or unlawful actions.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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