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Choose one when suing: bias or wrongful termination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

Good news for employers: When an Ohio employee sues for alleged discrimination under state, federal or local anti-discrimination laws, he can’t also add claims that he was wrongly terminated in violation of public policy. The other laws are his sole remedy.

Recent case: Allwell Akatobi, a black man of Nigerian national origin, was a manager of an Aldi grocery store. The chain fired him shortly after two things happened: His wife slipped while in the store, and he told his bosses he couldn’t work more than 50 hours per week.

He sued, claiming discrimination under Title VII. He added a claim of retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of public policy.

The court threw out the last claims, reasoning that other specific laws provide a remedy for the alleged wrongs. (Akatobi v. Aldi, No. 2:09-CV-1028, SD OH, 2010)

On the other hand, when whistle-blowing is involved ...

While the Akatobi case says an employee doesn’t get additional claims when other laws provide a remedy, the same isn’t true when his claim is based on a law with no specific remedy.

Consider the following case, in which a former employee said he was fired because he reported what he believed was wrongdoing under the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Recent case: Robin Kirk was fired from his job with Shaw Environmental shortly after returning from an assignment in Saudi Arabia.

He sued, alleging that he had complained about possible corrupt practices in the company’s Saudi subsidiary. Terminating him, he therefore argued, violated Ohio public policy.

The court said his case could go forward because the federal FCPA doesn’t provide a remedy for employees. Since it does not, Ohio law takes up the slack. (Kirk v. Shaw Environmental, No. 1:09-CV-1405, ND OH, 2010)

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