Wrongful Discharge

Termination of an at will employee is wrongful if said termination was in clear violation of a public policy. Painter v. Graley (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 377. The Ohio Supreme Court holds that the public policy can be based on statute, regulation or common law. Collins v. Rizkana (1995), 75 Ohio St.3d 65, 70; Livingston v. Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital (1997), 79 Ohio St.3d 249 (age/public policy). The protections under this newly developing area of law are broad. Under these claims, prevailing plaintiffs may recover, in addition to compensatory damages for economic loss, compensatory damages for "future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses." Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 253 (1994). Claims of public policy violations may include policy claims based off of federal regulation considerations. Kulch v. Structural Fibers, Inc., (Ohio 1997), 78 Ohio St.3d 134, 156, 677 N.E.2d 308.

A promise involving job security, specific in nature and reasonably relied on by the employee, is enforceable by law despite any claim to an at-will relationship. Mers v. Dispatch Printing Company, 10 Ohio St. 3d 100, 104 5 (1985); 91 Ohio App.3d 757, 633 N.E.2d 1140, Tersigni v. Gen. Tire, Inc., (Ohio App. 9 Dist. 1993). Most employees in Ohio, except union employees, operate in an employment at-will framework which provides no employment security or rights of fairness. While some exceptions exist, the employment at-will framework is the controlling standard.

"[T]he facts and circumstances surrounding an oral employment at will agreement, including the character of the employment, custom, the course of dealing between the parties, company policy, or any other fact which may illuminate the question, can be considered by the trier of fact in order to determine the agreement's explicit and implicit terms concerning discharge." Kelly v. Georgia Pacific, 46 Ohio St. 3d 134 (1989), Helmick v. Cincinnati Word Processing, Inc., 45 Ohio St. 3d 131 (1989); Karnes v. Doctors Hospital, 51 Ohio St. 3d 139 (1990). The legal effect of an implied contract and an express contract is identical. Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Ry Co. v. Gaffney, 65 Ohio St. 104 (1901) (par. 1 of syllabus).