Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorney Answer: If my employer disciplined me more severely than male employees, is that discrimination? Can I sue if I was fired for showing up to work late but everybody else at work comes in late and they don’t get punished at all? What should I do if I was fired today and my boss won’t tell me why?
The Ohio Supreme Court addressed the issue of at-will employment in Mers v. Dispatch Printing Co. and held: “Unless otherwise agreed, either party to an oral employment-at-will agreement may terminate the employment relationship for any reason which is not contrary to law. This doctrine has been repeatedly followed by most jurisdictions, including Ohio, which has long recognized the right of employers to discharge employees at will. See, e.g., LaFrance v. Internatl. Brotherhood (1923), 108 Ohio St. 61; Henkel v. Educ. Research Council (1976), 45 Ohio St. 2d 249 [74 O.O.2d 415]; Fawcett v. G. C. Murphy & Co. (1976), 46 Ohio St. 2d 245 [75 O.O.2d 291]; Evely v. Carlon Co. (1983), 4 Ohio St. 3d 163.” State more plainly, you can be fired for a bad reason, a stupid reason, a completely illogical reason, a bad business decision reason, an incorrect reason, and any other reason … except for those reasons that are against the law. Our employment attorneys have blogged about the impact of the employment-at-will doctrine before (See Can My Employer Fire Me With No Notice Or For No Reason? I Need A Lawyer!; Can My Company Layoff Only Older Workers? Top Age Discrimination Lawyer Answer!; and My Civilian Employer Refused To Rehire Me After I Was Discharged From The Armed Forces. Can I Sue? Best Lawyer Reply.)
So, given the employment-at-will doctrine, our employment law attorneys will always look to the laws that provide the exception. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.02 prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or sex, disability, age, and national origin. To make out a case of employment discrimination, an aggrieved employee must demonstrate that: (1) he or she belongs to one of the above protected classes (race, religion, national origin, age, sex, etc.); (2) he or she was qualified for the job; (3) he or she suffered an adverse employment action (discharged, demoted, pay reduced etc.); and (4) the adverse action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. When an employee can satisfy these elements, a presumption of discrimination exists and the employer must produce evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action. If the employer does so, then the employee must show that the employer’s stated reasons were “pretextual” and “unworthy of belief.”
As our employment discrimination lawyers have previously blogged about pretext, most employers who engage in discriminatory employment practices don’t just come right out and say “we’re doing this to you because you’re different and we don’t like you.” Instead, an employer will usually make up some excuse that is cloaked in legitimacy in order to cover up its true, discriminatory motive. An employee who is terminated because she is African American might be told that it’s because of attendance problems. An older worker who is demoted may be told that the company took issue with his performance. A company that passes over a disabled worker may justify its decision by pointing to some minor violation of company policy. When these stated reasons, which sound plausible, are clearly just being used as an excuse to cover up the real, discriminatory reason a person was fired, we call it “pretext.”
To be sure, sometimes an employee who happens to belong to a protected class is fired for a legitimate reason. Other times, though, an employer wrongfully terminates an employee for a discriminatory reason and offers an excuse that is transparently pretextual. Take, for example, the recent case of a New Jersey health club who has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by a former employee.
Rachel Bronner, an African-American woman, worked at a Planet Fitness in from June 2012 until she was terminated in March 2013. Bronner accused Planet Fitness of firing her for the same conduct that other employees frequently engaged in without being fired. According to Planet Fitness, it fired Bronner because she left the gym one day in the middle of her shift and did not tell gym management when she would return. Other gym employees, though, were allowed to come and go as they pleased, without facing any discipline whatsoever. Our discrimination lawyers frequently speak with clients who feel they have been terminated because of a discriminatory motive. Often, the employer will point to some disciplinary infraction as justification for the termination. But, even if the employee violated a company policy, the evaluation does not end. For example, if White employees don’t get disciplined for clocking in a few minutes late, but Black employees who clock in late are disciplined, that is race discrimination even though the Black employees violated a rule. Or, if a woman is suspended for cussing at a customer, but a man that did the same thing only got a verbal warning – that would be gender discrimination. Where, as in Bronner’s case, it can be shown that other employees engaged in the same conduct but escaped discipline we know that the stated reason for termination was manufactured or pretext.
Employees do not have to prove pretext just to bring the case, they just have to allege facts that, if believed, would cause some to distrust the employer’s reasons. Figuring all this out is difficult for non-lawyers, which is why it is important to get advice from skilled and experienced employees’ attorneys.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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