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Union members can’t use ‘Public policy’ violation as basis for retaliation claim

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Ohio state law may provide limited protection for employees fired in violation of “public policy.” But as the following case shows, those cases are limited to at-will employees, not those who have the protection of union representation or a union contract. Such employees don’t need the same protection that at-will employees may need.

Recent case: Factory worker Shawn Matricardi was frequently absent, sometimes using FMLA leave. He was a union member whose union had negotiated a no-fault attendance policy that called for discharge after employees reached a set number of absences. The contract didn’t allow FMLA leave to be counted against the absences tally.

Matricardi returned from the end of his FMLA leave with a new diagnosis: diabetes. He eventually lost his job due to more absences and sued. One of his claims was that he had complained about disability discrimination and was fired as a result. This, he said, meant that he had raised matters of important public policy (disability discrimination) and had been wrongly discharged because of it.

But the court rejected his claim because he was a union member. Only at-will employees can sue for being fired in violation of public policy. (Matricardi v. Astro Shapes, Inc., No. 4:04-CV-1317, ND OH, 2007)

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