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Wrongful Termination Lawyer & Columbus Wrongful Termination Attorney

As a wrongful termination lawyer with over three decades of experience, I understand the helpless feeling experienced after being unjustly terminated. Wrongful termination isn’t just about losing a job; it is about a violation of the fundamental rights protected by both federal and Ohio state laws. Having represented clients across Columbus and Ohio, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of such unjust practices on individuals and their families.

I champion the rights of those wrongfully terminated. As a Harvard Law School graduate and as a Certified Specialist in Employment Law by the Ohio State Bar Association, I bring experience and tenacity to every client case.  If you or a loved one was wrongfully terminated from a job, I invite you to call my office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your rights and options for pursuing accountability and maximum compensation. As a Columbus wrongful termination law firm, we can help.

What is Wrongful Termination in Ohio?

In Ohio, wrongful termination refers to situations where an employee is dismissed from their job for reasons that are illegal under federal or state law. This can include a variety of circumstances, such as:

  • Discrimination. It is illegal for employers to terminate employees based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (if the employee is 40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
  • Retaliation. Employers cannot fire employees for engaging in legally protected activities. This includes filing a complaint or lawsuit against the employer for discrimination or harassment, participating in an investigation of such complaints, filing a worker’s compensation complaint, or any form of whistleblowing against illegal practices within the company.
  • Breach of Contract. If there’s an employment contract in place (either written or implied) that outlines specific reasons for termination or establishes a set employment period, firing an employee outside of these terms might constitute wrongful termination.
  • Violation of Public Policy. Termination cannot go against Ohio’s established public policies. For example, firing an employee for taking time off work to vote, serve on a jury, or perform military service is against public policy and considered wrongful.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Violations. Employers are not allowed to terminate employees for taking leave under the FMLA, which entitles eligible workers to unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

Wrongful termination is not a standalone legal action but is tied to violations of specific legal protections like those against discrimination. Thus, the amount awarded can reflect both your direct financial losses and the particular nature of the illegal termination.

If you believe that you have been illegally terminated, as a wrongful termination attorney I can help.

Can I Be Wrongfully Terminated as an “At-Will Employee?

Yes.  While Ohio is an “at-will” employment state, employers cannot terminate employees for illegal purposes.

In an “at-will” employment state, employers can terminate employment at their discretion, for any reason, or for no reason, without facing legal repercussions. This framework allows for a flexible employment relationship but also places a significant amount of power in the hands of employers. However, this power is not absolute and is subject to critical exceptions, particularly when terminations occur for unlawful reasons.

I Have an Offer Letter Contract – Can I Be Terminated At-Will?

In most cases, yes.  Typically, offer letters will set forth the terms of employment (such as salary, job description, etc.), but such offer letters usually will not be contracts (particularly if they do not set a duration for the employment).

If this is the case with your offer letter, most likely, you will be an at-will employee.

While the concept of at-will employment suggests that formal employment contracts are rare, many employees receive offer letters or other forms of employment agreements that might imply certain conditions of employment. Although these documents often do not constitute an employment contract in the traditional sense, they can sometimes contain terms that modify the at-will relationship.

In cases where an actual employment contract exists—explicitly stating the duration of employment, specific job duties, conditions for termination, and other employment terms—these provisions take precedence over the at-will doctrine. For instance, if your employment contract in Ohio specifies that you can only be dismissed for not achieving defined performance targets or “for cause,” then being terminated for reasons outside those specified could constitute a breach of contract and potentially wrongful termination.  As a wrongful termination lawyer, I can review your situation and advise if you have a legal case.

It’s important for Ohio employees to understand the nature of their employment agreements and the extent to which they might offer protection against at-will termination. If you suspect that your termination was not just “at-will” but instead due to prohibited discrimination, retaliation, or in violation of an employment contract, you may have grounds for a legal claim. Consulting with an experienced wrongful termination attorney can provide clarity on your situation and help determine the best course of action.

My Boss Fired Me – Is This Wrongful Termination?

Let’s suppose your boss is a jerk.  You came in to work 15 minutes late one day because you got a flat tire. You otherwise have a perfect work record.  Is this wrongful termination?

Probably not.

It’s not illegal for your boss to be a jerk or to fire someone for a morally reprehensible reason. Your boss just cannot fire you for an illegal reason.

Can I Be Fired if I’m Pregnant?

No, you can’t be fired just because you became pregnant.

What is a Pretextual Firing? A Pregnancy Example.

Pretextual firing occurs when an employee is fired for a purportedly legal reason (or for no reason) when the true motivation for the firing was due to an illegal reason.

Suppose your boss just became aware that you are pregnant.  Your boss doesn’t want to give you time off, either to go to doctor’s appointments or to go on maternity leave.

One day, your boss calls you in for a review and tells you that your work is sub-par.  Your boss then fires you based upon “poor performance.” Do you have a case for wrongful termination?

Maybe.  The answer depends upon what the real reason was that you were fired – was it for poor performance, or was it because you became pregnant?

I handle these and other cases concerning pretextual termination. Often, through discovery (such as obtaining emails) and depositions (did the boss discuss with other managers that he wanted to fire you for becoming pregnant?), we can discern that the true reason for termination was an illegal reason.

How Can I Prove Wrongful Discharge in Ohio?

Proving wrongful termination in Ohio often requires a nuanced approach, as direct evidence of unlawful dismissal—such as a clear admission from an employer—is rare. For instance, it is uncommon for an employer to explicitly state that an employee was terminated due to pregnancy, racial identity, or any other protected characteristic.

To build a strong case, a broad spectrum of evidence is essential. Consider the example above, where an employee who has consistently received positive performance evaluations but suddenly experiences a decline in reviews after revealing a pregnancy or after a change in supervisors who exhibit bias. These shifts in treatment can be indicative of discriminatory practices.

During the legal proceedings, as a wrongful termination attorney, it’s my job to gather comprehensive evidence. This may involve speaking with other employees who can share their observations or experiences of similar treatment. Requesting company documents through the subpoenas and the discovery process, including email correspondence, performance evaluations, and any other records related to the termination, is also a key step. Deposing individuals involved in the decision to terminate—under oath—can provide invaluable insights into their reasoning and reveal any discrepancies or biases in their accounts.

This evidence-collection process aims to piece together a narrative that supports the claim of wrongful termination, leveraging both direct and circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the termination was not just unfounded but illegal under Ohio law.

Can I Be Wrongfully Terminated if I am a Member of a Union?

Yes, this is possible.  Wrongful termination laws can protect union members.  However, union members usually must first look to their collective bargaining agreement for protection.  If a company fires a union employee without complying with the applicable provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, this may give occasion for a wrongful termination case.

Can I Get My Job Back If I Was Wrongfully Terminated?

In most cases, you won’t be able to get your job back.  Instead, you will be entitled to monetary compensation based on the damages you sustained.

However, there are specific exceptions.  For instance, if you are a member of a union with protections under a collective bargaining agreement, getting your job back might be a possibility. Also, on occasion, we can stop an illegal practice or get you reinstated. More commonly, however, resolutions to wrongful termination claims involve financial settlements and verdicts rather than reinstatement to your previous role.

How Much Money Can I Get If I Was Wrongfully Terminated in Ohio?

In Ohio, the compensation you might receive after being wrongfully terminated is intended to cover the full extent of your losses. However, quantifying these damages can be complex. You are also expected to mitigate your losses, meaning you should make reasonable efforts to find new employment.

Typically, wrongful termination leads to a period of unemployment, during which you might receive unemployment benefits. However, these benefits often don’t match your previous earnings. Calculating your compensation will involve considering not only lost wages and benefits but also any emotional distress caused by the wrongful termination and potential punitive damages.  A wrongful termination attorney can help with these calculations.

Wrongful Discharge Lawyer Rayl L. Stepter – Fighting for Employee Rights Since 1993

As an experienced wrongful termination lawyer, I can dig into the details and thoroughly investigate your case. Where a legal claim exists, I will gather evidence, interview witnesses, and seek compensation from your employer. I am available both to negotiate valid claims in lieu of filing a lawsuit and to file a lawsuit to recover damages on your behalf.

If you or a loved one was wrongfully terminated, I invite you to call my office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.

To have legal standing, your employer must have broken a law. Unfair and/or unethical conduct alone is not necessarily illegal. For example, if you were fired because of your gender, race, age, religion, national origin, or disability, your employer may have broken federal and/or state employment discrimination laws. To learn more about various legal claims, please visit the following pages:

Contact Stepter Law Office today.

Learn more: Visit our employment law information center.

From Columbus, Ohio, wrongful termination attorney Rayl L. Stepter represents illegally terminated employees throughout Ohio, including the cities of Columbus, Upper Arlington, Dublin, Westerville, Springfield, Gahanna, Reynoldsburg, Hilliard, and Grove City, OH, as well as residents of Franklin County.