Best Ohio Whistleblower Attorney Answer: What should I do if I was fired today after reporting an OSHA violation? How do I provide my employer with a complaint that’s protected under the law? What is a good faith effort to comply with the requirements for a whistleblower complaint?
As our employment attorneys have discussed previously, under Ohio law, an employee has a right to submit a complaint to his or her employer about unlawful or unsafe conduct at work. (See Can I Be Fired For Reporting Financial Fraud At My Job?; Am I Protected As A Whistleblower? Best Lawyer Answer!; Can A Confidentiality Agreement Stop From Whistleblowing?; and Can I Be Fired For Reporting Patient Abuse? I Need A Lawyer!) Specifically, Ohio’s whistleblower statute Revised Code § 4113.52 states, in part:
If an employee becomes aware in the course of the employee’s employment of a violation of any state or federal statute or any ordinance or regulation of a political subdivision that the employee’s employer has authority to correct, and the employee reasonably believes that the violation is a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or a hazard to public health or safety , a felony, or an improper solicitation for a contribution, the employee orally shall notify the employee’s supervisor or other responsible officer of the employee’s employer of the violation and subsequently shall file with that supervisor or officer a written report that provides sufficient detail to identify and describe the violation.
What exactly does an employee have to do in order to comply with the statute? In the case of Tipaldo v. Lynn, the Court of Appeals of New York was asked to resolve the same exact question when Tipaldo, an employee who uncovered illegal uses of government money, was terminated and the issue of whether or not he had made a sufficient “good faith” effort to complain. In Tipaldo, the employee had refused to sign off on a request by his boss to pay for new road signs from a company owned by a friend of his boss, which was a clear violation of the law. Tipaldo’s refusal to violate the law and his report to the Inspector General about his boss’s conduct led to Tipaldo’s demotion and eventual termination from his job. Tipaldo, instead of reporting the conduct directly to his boss, reported the conduct to the Inspector General, which was not in strict adherence to the statute. The court concluded Tipaldo had engaged in a good faith effort and did not have to go through his bosses before he went to the Inspector General. Specifcically, the court held the following:
We hold that plaintiff complied with the statutory reporting requirement by informing his immediate supervisors of the misconduct and thereafter reporting the misconduct to the DOT Inspector General. Whistleblowing is encouraged to prevent employer misconduct and provide appropriate remedies when it occurs. Employees in situations like plaintiff’s should not be required to report to the appointing authority where such a report would prove impractical and possibly impede prompt resolution of the matter. Notably, here, plaintiff believed the appointing authority was on notice of the alleged improper governmental action, based on plaintiff and other employees’ expression of concern after a DOT meeting, DOT employees’ refusal to approve the appointing authority’s purchase, and the appointing authority’s subsequent solicitation of bids followed by the issuance of a backdated memorandum claiming that the process needed to be expedited.
The takeaway is, if it is impossible for you to get a solution at work because the same person who is engaging in illegal conduct is also the only person you have to report the conduct, you may be able to satisfy the whistleblower statute by reporting to other co-workers and an outside agency. However, these are often difficult waters to navigate and this case does not resolve the specific situation that you may be in.
Ohio law provides job protections to those employees that report or oppose illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions, such as OSHA violations, embezzlement, unlawful discrimination, or patient abuse, to name a few. However, in order to have the protections under the law, there are a lot of steps that each employee must take. That is why it is absolutely critical for any employee confronted with illegal or unsafe conduct or work conditions at work to immediately consult with employment law lawyers in order to make sure that everything is done right. If you wait until you are fired, you may have already lost your claim. Do not wait. If you have seen any illegal or dangerous conduct on your job, then the best thing you can do is call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting Ohio employees from retaliation after blowing the whistle on unlawful and hazardous activities at work.
The materials available at the top of this whistle blower claims page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “what should I do if I am being harassed for reporting…”, “how do I …?”, “Am I …?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to particular whistleblower claims questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.