To prove a case of discrimination (race, gender, age, national origin, etc.) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.99, an employee must show an adverse employment action. The adverse action need not result in pecuniary loss, but must materially affect the plaintiff’s terms and conditions of employment. Ohio Courts determine whether an employer’s actions are adverse to an employee on a case-by-case basis.
Our employment discrimination attorneys know that Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.99 is very broad and allows claims for a wide spectrum of employer actions, including those affecting “hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.” Examples of adverse employment actions include refusal to hire, “termination of employment, a demotion evidenced by a decrease in wage or salary, a less distinguished title, a material loss of benefits, or significantly diminished material responsibilities, or other indices that might be unique to a particular situation.” Peterson v. Buckeye Steel Casings, 133 Ohio App. 3d 715, 727(1999); see also Samadder v. DMF of Ohio, Inc., 154 Ohio App. 3d 770, 781, 2003 Ohio 5340 (2003).
Although many employers think that simply allowing an existing employment contract to expire does not qualify as an action at all, let alone, an adverse employment action, “failure to renew a contract is an actionable adverse employment action.” Samadder v. DMF of Ohio, Inc., 154 Ohio App. 3d 770, 781, 2003 Ohio 5340 (2003); see also Csejpes v. Cleveland Catholic Diocese, 109 Ohio App. 3d 533, 538 (Cuyahoga County 1996) (non-renewal of an employment contract qualifies as a civil rights violation as a matter of law). Mateu-Anderegg v. School District of Whitefish Bay (C.A.7, 2002), 304 F.3d 618, 625 (decision not to renew a teacher’s contract an adverse employment action under Title VII).
The recent case of Sesso v. Mercy Suburban Hospital provides a great example of how non-renewal of a contract may be considered an adverse employment action for purposes of a discrimination claim under Federal or Ohio law. In Sesso, the employee, a 63 year old doctor had previously entered into two successive employment contracts but the employer hospital after the hospital acquired by his practice several years before. When the employer did not renew his contract, Sesso filed age discrimination and retaliation claims against the hospital.
The trial court held that Sesso established his prima facie case of discrimination because he was qualified for the position; that retirement related remarks by various members of hospital management; and that the hospital re-assigned Sesso’s duties to younger doctors created a plausible inference that age-based discrimination was the reason for the adverse employment action. While the employer insisted that the decision not to renew the contract was based on economic and strategic factors, including Sesso’s practice having too few patients and a lack of need for his services for intensive care inpatients, the court focused on the fact that the hospital never asked Sesso if he was willing to work as a full-time hospitalist, or otherwise asked to take on duties more closely aligned with the hospital’s strategic plan. As such, the trial court refused to dismiss the case as a matter of law and sent it to the jury for its determination.
If you even think that your employment rights have been violated or that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 273-3742. The Spitz Law Firm is dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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