Wrongful termination occurs when a person is fired or terminated from their employment for an unlawful or illegal reason. What the law considers unlawful or illegal is very specific – firing or termination of employment based on a person’s race, color, religion, gender or sex, or national origin is prohibited; firing or termination of employment because an employee engaged in a lawful activity, such as reporting work place harassment or engaging as a whistleblower and reporting wrongdoing by the employer, is prohibited.
Ohio is a “right to work” state, as are most states in the United States. The term “right to work” is extremely deceptive and misleading. Taken at face value, this phrase implies an employee has some guarantee, supported by the law, to employment, when in reality this phrase means the exact opposite. Employees in a right to work state, who are not employed under an employment contract or service agreement that sets out the specific terms and conditions of employment, are considered “at-will” employees under the law.
At-will employees are employed at the pleasure or will of the employer; the employer, at its will, sets the parameters and conditions of employment. An employer may terminate an at-will employee at any time, for any reason (or for no reason at all), with or without justification, so long as the termination is not based upon the employee’s race, color, religion, gender or sex, or national origin. It is unlawful or an employer to terminate an employee for complaining, filing a grievance, or reporting suspected discriminatory or illegal conduct by an employer. A termination under these circumstances is considered retaliation and also violates the law.