Employment Laws Ohio – Rights in the Workplace

Do you have questions about which employment laws protect you in Ohio? Do you think your rights at work are being violated or you need an employee rights lawyer?  There are various labor and employment laws, both state and federal, that provide employees with many rights in the workplace. Here are just a couple that you should know about.

The Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act (“OFEPA”) can be found in the Ohio Revised Code, starting at section 4112.01. That law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment based on that person’s race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age or ancestry. The law also states that to discriminate against a female because she is pregnant is discriminating against her based on her sex and therefore a violation of the law. Generally, this means that an employer cannot fire someone, treat them differently than other similar employees, or refuse to hire someone simply because of their membership in one or more of these protected classes. To find out more about unlawful practices, visit our discrimination and harassment pages. If you believe you are the victim of unlawful discrimination, our employment attorneys can help you.

Our workplace lawyers are also familiar with the Ohio wage laws, including the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act (“OMFWSA”) and the Ohio Prompt Pay Act. The OMFWSA, like its federal counterpart, requires that employees be paid the proper wage rate for all hours that they work. For more information about common violations of these acts, and what you should do if you do not think you are being paid correctly, visit our unpaid wages pages. The Prompt Pay Act in Ohio requires employers to pay employees within a certain period of time or else they are subject to fines and penalties.

Both Ohio and federal law protect employees against various forms of retaliation at the hands of their employers. For example, Ohio’s workers’ compensation statute says that employers cannot fire, discipline or otherwise discriminate against an employee who gets hurt at work or participates in a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Likewise, if someone complains of unlawful discrimination or harassment under the OFEPA either for him or herself or on someone else’s behalf, or otherwise participates in any investigation or proceeding relating to unlawful discrimination, the OFEPA makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against that person. The Ohio Whistleblower statute protects an employee from being fired or otherwise retaliated against because he or she complained of or alerted the employer to certain unlawful practices by the company. There are various other activities that an employee can engage in and for which his or her employer cannot retaliate. While retaliation typically comes in the form of being fired, retaliation can come in various ways. If you have questions about whether you are being retaliated against or you have engaged in protected activity, the employment lawyers at Widman and Franklin can help.

Finally, a law that many employees do not know about or think applies to them and is often misunderstood by employers is the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRA generally governs the unionized workforce. However, it also applies to employees who are not members of a union. The NLRA, among other things, prohibits employers from implementing rules that stifles employees’ rights to collectively bargain. This means, for example, that employers cannot have rules that stop employees from discussing their wages or benefits; discussing or complaining about their working conditions; joining outside organizations; speaking to union representatives; and criticizing the employer. Employers also cannot regulate what employees post on social media regarding the protected categories and cannot retaliate against an employee for engaging in any protected conduct. Our experienced labor attorneys can help you if you are unsure whether your company has imposed an unlawful policy or if certain conduct would be protected.

Sexual Harassment at Work

Are you in need of a sexual harassment lawyer? Have you experienced harassment at work?  Have the actions or comments by another worker made you feel uncomfortable while at your job?

Sexual harassment refers to when someone has received unwelcome sexual advances at the workplace. There are typically two types of sexual harassment. One results in the granting or denial of workplace privileges, the other results in what is called a hostile work environment. The harassment laws forbid both types of conduct.

The first type of sexual harassment is called “Quid pro quo” harassment. Harassment laws define quid pro quo as someone, typically a supervisor, who conditions employment or certain benefits of one’s employment on his or her submission to sexual advances.  A common example of this form of harassment is found when an employer offers a promotion in exchange for sexual favors.  Another example of this kind of workplace harassment is when an employee is fired for refusing to date or provide sexual favors for his or her boss.

“Hostile work environment” harassment, however, refers to when unwelcome sexual conduct by another becomes either so common or so severe that it affects the person’s ability to work.  An example of this would be constant, day-to-day sexual comments directed toward an employee which are so unwelcome and egregious that the employee no longer feels safe at work.

Of course, not all situations fall into such clear-cut categories.  Workplace harassment may take the form of sexual comments not directed at you, but at coworkers.  Even still, if the comments are severe or pervasive, this may still constitute a hostile work environment.  Further, while some employers may condition a job or job benefits expressly on the performance of sexual favors, others may be more subtle.  It is common, for example, for supervisors to approach subordinates and engage in a pattern of flirting, with the expectation of return flirting.  Often employees faced with this predicament find that rejecting the flirting may negatively impact performance reviews or job assignments.  Worse, other employees discover that accepting or reciprocating the flirting for fear of losing their job results in a never ending pattern of unwelcome sexual advances from the supervisor. Our workplace sexual harassment lawyers can help determine if you are experiencing one or both forms of unlawful sexual harassment.

The harassment laws make clear that any employer either engaging in sexual harassment, condoning workplace harassment, or failing to prevent or correcta hostile work environment may be subject to a sexual harassment lawsuit, and consequently may be subject to paying damages, potentially including punitive damages, attorney fees, and arguably back pay or front pay if the employee was terminated in retaliation for opposing the harassment or if the employee was left with no other choice but to resign in order to avoid harassing conduct.

A sexual harassment lawyer who is exceptionally familiar with workplace harassment laws will be able to analyze and apply the law to your situation to determine what type of recovery you will be able to achieve.  If you feel a coworker or supervisor’s conduct is inappropriate or is making you uncomfortable, do not hesitate to contact a workplace harassment lawyer at Widman & Franklin, LLC. At our firm, our employment attorneys have successfully achieved financial compensation in hundreds of sexual harassment cases for clients.

Tips for Addressing Wage and Hour Violations

Do you think you have a claim for unpaid wages? What should you do to recover non payment of wages? Here are a few tips to address wage and hour violations.

First, hopefully you have been keeping track of how many hours you worked each day. If you have not been keeping track, start a journal or keep a calendar right away and try to recreate your work schedule in the past. Try to be as accurate as possible, but the law does not put the burden on you to be exact. In fact, your employer is supposed to be keeping accurate records of every hour you (and other employees) work. If it has failed to do so, you are free to estimate what you are owed. It is good, however, if you have some documents where you keep track of your hours should it be necessary to go to Court to recover your unpaid wages.

Second, you should carefully calculate the wages you think you are owed. Generally, the law requires employees to be paid for every hour worked and for every hour worked over 40 in any given week, the law requires employees to be paid one and one-half times their regular hourly rate. To calculate your unpaid wages, take the number of hours you worked and were not paid, and multiply it by the appropriate rate of pay.  However, there are various exceptions to this general rule and time limits for how far back you can recover any unpaid wages. If you are unsure how to calculate your unpaid wages or whether you are in fact entitled to recover any unpaid wages, you should contact a wage and hour lawyer at Widman & Franklin.

Third, make a demand to your employer to pay you your unpaid wages, and the demand should be in writing. If you are still working for your employer, it can be intimidating and scary to confront your employer. However, the law protects against retaliation and if your employer fired you, you would have a wrongful termination claim. Your employer also cannot do other things to affect your employment in response to your demand to be paid correctly. There is nothing specific that needs to be included in your demand, nor does it have to be lengthy. Rather, you will want it to be a short, non-argumentative request for payment of your unpaid wages. You should also include a deadline for your employer to respond since every day that passes, you may be losing the ability to recover unpaid wages because of the time limits. If you are unsure how to draft a demand or what to say, contact one of our employment lawyers and we can help you.

Fourth, if your employer does not respond or simply refuses to pay you, consider suing for unpaid wages. Even if you think you do not have enough unpaid wages to justify the cost of filing a lawsuit, claims such as these can be brought as class and collective actions so that a lawsuit can be brought not just for you but also on behalf of other similarly situated employees. So, collectively, it may be cost effective to bring a lawsuit. You should also be aware that there is a possibility that you have waived (maybe even unknowingly) your ability to file a lawsuit to recover your claims. Employers bury arbitration clauses and class and collective action waivers in handbooks, employment applications and other policies which employees sign without understanding what they are agreeing to. If your employer has any of these clauses, you may be forced to bring your individual claims through arbitration rather than in a court of law. Before you meet with one of our wage claim lawyers, you should get a copy of any handbook or policy and procedure manual so that our employment attorneys can fully explain your options about filing a lawsuit.