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Whistle-Blower fired over fire

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in Human Resources

An Ohio employer got burned after it fired an employee two days after he told an insurance inspector about a malfunctioning fire alarm.

Randall Dohme worked as an engineering supervisor for Eurand America, Inc. Several months after being hired, he witnessed a fire on company property. He ran to the nearest fire alarm and found it didn’t work.

When an insurance inspector arrived several months later, Dohme’s superiors told him not to speak to the inspector. Despite the warning, Dohme told the inspector about the malfunctioning alarm. Two days later, he was terminated.

He sued in state court. The trial court dismissed his claim, but the appeals court ruled Dohme can go to trial. It ruled Ohio’s whistle-blower laws protected Dohme.

Tip: Ohio state courts have issued several decisions recently limiting an employer’s right to terminate employees. Specifically, the courts have said that employees are protected under the public-policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine. In other words, an employee can't be fired for refusing to break the law, or for exercising his or her legitimate rights.  

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