Ohio Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws of Ohio

A Summary of Ohio Whistleblower Laws

Ohio is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Ohio Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Ohio

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Ohio

Ohio has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, Ohio protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Reporting illegal activities or conduct.
  • Refusing to commit perjury.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Reporting the existence of dangerous working conditions to the relevant authorities.
  • Discussing lawsuit concerns with an attorney.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Ohio

General Whistleblower Protection

Employers are not allowed to discharge, suspend, discipline, alter terms of employment, or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  1. Reporting criminal violations of the following laws to the appropriate agency or public official:
  2. Air Pollution Control laws.
  3. Solid and Hazardous Wastes laws.
  4. Safe Drinking Water laws.
  5. Water Pollution Control laws.
  6. Reporting a violation of state or federal law, regulation, or ordinance by the employer or a fellow employee that the employee reasonably believes is a criminal offense that:
  7. May pose a safety risk or hazard to public health and safety.
  8. Constitutes a felony.
  9. Involves an improper solicitation for a contribution.

If an employee believes a fellow employee or employer has committed a violation, he or she is required by law to notify a supervisor or other responsible office of the violation and file with that supervisor or officer a written report containing specific details of the violation. If the employer is the violator, the employee is required to give the employer 24 hours after notifying the supervisor or officer so that the employer can correct the violation. If the employer fails to make the correction, the employee is required to file a detailed written report of the violation with the prosecuting authority of the county or municipal corporation.

Employees are also required to make disclosures under this statute in good faith and with a reasonable belief that the information they are disclosing is accurate. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4113.52.

Public Employees

No appointing authority is allowed to discipline or in any way retaliate against a classified or unclassified civil service employee for reporting a violation of state or federal statutes, rules or regulations or a misuse of public resources. Employees can file a written report identifying the misuse or violation with the supervisor, appointing authority, the office of internal audit, or auditor of the state’s fraud-reporting system. Ohio Rev. Code. Ann. § 124.341.

Residential Care Facilities

No person or government entity is allowed toin any way retaliate against an individual or employee for:

  • Reporting or intending to report in good faith suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a resident or misappropriation of a resident’s property.
  • Providing information concerning suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a resident or misappropriation of a resident’s property during an investigation conducted by the director of health.
  • Participating in a hearing concerning the suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a resident or misappropriation of a resident’s property.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3721.24.

Discrimination

No person is allowed to in any way discriminate against another person in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices deemed unlawful under this statute.
  • Making a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation or hearing under this statute.

Under this statute, it is unlawful for an employer to in any way discriminate against an individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4112.02(I).

Labor Organizations

It is against the law for public employers to discharge, refuse to hire, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee or individual in retaliation for:

  • Being a member of a labor organization.
  • Filing a charge under this statute.
  • Giving testimony under this statute.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4117.11.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

No long-term care provider or any other person is allowed to discipline or in any way discriminate against a representative of the office of the state long-term care ombudsman program or another individual in retaliation for:

  • Providing information to the ombudsman office.
  • Filing a complaint with the ombudsman office.
  • Participating in an investigation, hearing, or administrative or judicial proceeding concerning a complaint that was filed with the ombudsman office.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 173.24.

Minimum Wage

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning unpaid wages with the director of commerce or employer.
  • Filing any complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4111.13(B).

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Making a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting or testifying in a proceeding under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employees in the payment of wages on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or ancestry. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4111.17(D).

Workers’ Compensation

Employers are not allowed to discharge, demote, or take any punitive action against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Instituting a proceeding related to the workers’ compensation act.
  • Testifying in a proceeding under the workers’ compensation act.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4123.90.

Public Employment Risk Reduction Program

Public employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against a public employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4167.13.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Ohio

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, lawsuits based on statutory protections should be filed in the appropriate court within 6 years of the retaliatory action. Lawsuits under public policy should be filed within 4 years of the retaliatory action.

General Whistleblower Protection

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) within 6 months of the retaliatory action.

Public Employees

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the state personnel board of review within 30 days after learning about retaliatory action.

Wage Discrimination

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed in the appropriate court within 1 year of the retaliatory action.

Workers’ Compensation

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 180 days of the retaliation.

Public Employment Risk Reduction Program

Aggrieved employees under this statute should file a complaint with the state personnel board of review within 60 days of the violation. Aggrieved employees can also choose to file a lawsuit with the appropriate court.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Ohio

To file a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, call 888-278-7101.

To file a complaint with the state personnel board of review, call (614) 466-7046.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Ohio

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee.
  • Payment of back pay.
  • Reinstatement of fringe benefits.
  • Temporary or permanent injunctive relief.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Plus any other relief deemed appropriate.

General Whistleblower Protection

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position or equivalent position.
  • Payment of back wages.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Injunctive relief.

Residential Care Facilities

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Damages.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Court costs.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.

Labor Organizations

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Cease and desist.
  • Reinstatement of the complainant, with or without back pay.

Wage Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Two times the amount of wages the complainant should have received if not for the discrimination.
  • Costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement with back pay.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.

Public Employment Risk Reduction Program

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Rehiring or reinstatement to previous job position with back pay.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

More Ohio Laws

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