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Damages (And Limitations of Damages) Generally Available in Employment Cases

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Disability and Health Insurance Benefits

Health insurance and disability benefits are primarily regulated under federal law. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets standards and requirements for the administration of employee benefit and welfare plans (such as Employer sponsored Disability and Health Insurance Benefits), to ensure employees will actually receive employer provided benefits. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is applicable to health insurance continuation after termination of employment. Ohio statutes cover health insurance continuation requirements for small employers. It is illegal for an employer to interfere with an employee’s access to these benefits or to retaliate against an employee for obtaining these benefits. We offer a full range of services to employers and individuals relating to employee insurance and benefit plans. Oftentimes an employee who becomes disabled and is receiving disability benefits from a private disability insurer will be faced with a notice terminating benefits after the first or second year of benefit eligibility. WE CAN HELP, but it is essential to contact us during the administrative appeals process. Once the Plan Administrator has issued a final denial of benefits, it will likely be too late to introduce evidence into the administrative record that is needed for a successful appeal of the Plan Administrator’s decision denying benefits. If you have questions about an employee benefit plan, please contact us. We can help employers who need guidance in compliance with benefit laws. We are also available to assist current and former employees in obtaining the benefits or appealing the denial of benefits, and we have extensive experience working with disability insurers to reinstate disability pay benefits.

Benefits resources:

Public Employees

We are advocates for public sector employees, including state, county, municipal, school, and law enforcement employees. Public sector employment is governed by state statutes and the Ohio Administrative Code. The rules applicable to public sector employees can be confusing and complicated. We have successfully represented public sector employees in pre-disciplinary and termination hearings, in state and Federal Court, and before the State Personnel Board of Review, the State Employment Relations Board, and the Ohio Court of Claims. We represent public sector employees faced with discrimination, and retaliation, classification issues, wrongful removal, predisciplinary hearings, whistleblowing claims, OPERS issues, or who are otherwise being subjected to unlawful conduct. Public employees who experience improper discipline, wrongful discharge, discrimination and retaliation must respond promptly to protect their rights, as the opportunity to appeal is often subject to very strict time limitations. If you are a state, county, school, or municipal employee and have an issue at work you need to be discuss, please contact us. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Public sector resources:

Federal Employees

The employment of federal employees is guided by merit system principles, in accordance with federal statutes and regulations peculiar to federal sector employment. Many federal agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, have adopted independent and complex policies and procedures to address employee grievances and discipline. Federal employees who are subject to improper discipline, discrimination, and retaliation must respond promptly to protect their rights, as the opportunity to respond is often subject to very strict and short time limitations. We are advocates for federal employees. We know the laws, regulations, and policies applicable to the various classifications of federal employees. We have successfully represented federal employees through agency internal grievance processes and before the Office of Special Counsel, Merit Systems Protection Board, the Disciplinary Appeals Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and in Federal Court. We represent federal employees faced with unwarranted disciplinary action, discrimination, retaliation, proposed suspension removal, security clearance denials, whistleblower retaliation, or who are otherwise are being subjected to an unlawful, hostile work environment. If you are a federal employee and have an issue at work that needs to be discussed, please contact us. We are here to provide practical legal advice and guidance.

Federal sector resources:

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to employers who employ 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius. The FMLA guarantees up to 12 weeks of qualified medical leave for all employees who have worked at the company for at least a year and at least 1,250 hours in the past twelve months. An employee can take leave:
  • To care for a new child, whether by birth or adoption;
  • To care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition;
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
  • To care for an injured service member in the family.
Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee is entitled to return to the employee’s prior position or be placed in an equivalent position. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with an employee’s use of FMLA leave or to retaliate against an employee for taking FMLA leave. If you have questions about FMLA leave, please contact us. We have extensive experience representing employers and individuals involving FMLA issues. We are here to provide practical legal advice and guidance.

FMLA Resources:

Whistleblower Retaliation

Employees who report workplace misconduct may be protected by federal and state law. The statutory protections can apply even where there is no violation of law, so long as the employee reasonably believes a violation of law has occurred. There may also be whistleblower protections available for reporting dangerous or improper conduct, even if not illegal. Most whistleblower statutes prohibit employers from firing, demoting, or otherwise discriminating against employees who “blow the whistle.” Federal laws protecting whistleblowers focus on specific types of unlawful activity, while Ohio provides general statutory whistleblower protection to employees, but only when the technical reporting requirements of the statute are met. Ohio requirements include that the activity subject of the whistleblowing be reporting in writing and that the person making the report reasonably believes the activity is illegal and a felony, or that the activity pose a serious threat to public health of safety. If you have questions about whistleblower protection, please contact us. We have extensive experience representing employers and individuals involving whistleblowing issues. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Whistleblowing resources:

Unlawful Workplace Harassment

Harassment in the workplace motivated because of race, sex, age, disability, religion, pregnancy, color, and national origin. Termination of employment is not a requirement to bring an action for workplace harassment. Employers can be held liable for failing to maintain policies that prohibit unlawful harassment and should provide employees a method for reporting unlawful harassment. Employers have legal obligations to investigate complaints of unlawful harassment and discipline employees who commit unlawful harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a specific type of illegal sex discrimination. Women are most frequently the victims of sexual harassment, but men can also be sexually harassed. Unlawful sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, demands for sexual favors, lewd jokes, and pornography in the workplace. Sexual harassment may take other forms as well, but the key inquiry in all types of sexual harassment complaints is whether the conduct is unwelcome and based on sex. While sexual harassment is illegal, the workplace is not required to be free from inappropriate jokes or occasional sexual innuendo. Whether bad behavior rises to the level of sexual harassment is determined by the frequency and severity of the misconduct. The line is crossed if the work environment becomes so permeated with sexual references or conduct or the harassment is so severe that it interferes with work performance or alters the terms and conditions of employment. If you have questions about workplace harassment and sexual harassment, please contact us. We have extensive experience representing employers and individuals involving harassment issues. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Sexual harassment resources:

Wrongful Terminations

Under Ohio law, most employment relationships are “at-will,” which means that employees and employers can terminate employment at any time, for any reason or no reason, so long as it is not an unlawful reason. Non-attorneys, and even attorneys that do not practice employment law often speak of “wrongful discharge,” but this term can be misleading. An employment termination may be “wrong,” as in unfair, but not necessarily unlawful. A claim for unlawful discharge can be brought if based on a breach of contract, principles of estoppel, for violation of federal or state statutes, and violation of public policy. Claims for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy may be brought by an “at-will” employee whose termination is motivated for a reason prohibited by public policy. A claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy may not be asserted by employees who are union members. To maintain a public policy violation claim, the terminated employee must prove a clear public policy exists, that the dismissal jeopardizes the public policy, the dismissal was motivated by conduct related to the public policy, and there is no overriding legitimate business justification for the dismissal. If you have questions about wrongful discharge, please contact us. We have extensive experience representing employers and individuals involving wrongful discharge claims. We are here to help with practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Wrongful termination resources:

Unemployment Claims

Unemployment compensation benefits are administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), providing temporary income to individuals who have lost their job through no fault of their own. The purpose of unemployment compensation is to assist the individual through difficult times. These benefits are available to a terminated employee, so long as the employee was not terminated “for just cause.” If the employer or terminated employee is not satisfied with the "initial determination” by the ODJFS as to an award of benefits, a redetermination can be requested. The redetermination can also be appealed and a hearing held on the issue. The cost of unemployment compensation benefits is funded by employer contributions, and the amount an employer pays will increase depending upon the employer’s claims experience. Employers can take several steps to effectively reduce adverse claim determinations and reduce unemployment contribution requirements. We have represented several employers on a flat-fee basis to manage and defend unemployment compensation claims so as to minimize the impact employee terminations will have on an employer’s contribution rate. If you have questions about unemployment compensation, please contact us. We can and do represent employers and individuals involving unemployment compensation issues. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Unemployment Compensation resources:

Investigations by Government Agencies (EEOC, OCRC, NLRB, DOL and OSHA)

Many government agencies are mandated to enforce laws applicable to the workplace, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (“OCRC”), and the Ohio Department of Commerce (wage and hour department). These agencies will accept complaints and investigate alleged violations of the laws these agencies are responsible to enforce. If you are contacted by one of these agencies, retaining experienced legal counsel who know the applicable regulations, how these investigations are conducted, and how to properly respond is critical to avoiding adverse findings and the potential negative consequences an investigation may have on your business.

We have substantial experience and a track record of success representing and defending employers subject to workplace administrative investigations. If you have questions about an administrative investigation or the investigative process, have been notified that an investigation is being initiated or has been commenced, or have received a subpoena or charge notification from a government agency, please contact us. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Administrative Agency resources:

Employment Contracts, Severance Agreements, and Non-compete / Non-disclosure Agreements

Employers and individuals frequently use employment contracts as an effective way to confirm the terms of employment and prevent the use of confidential information. Severance agreements are used to specify any compensation and benefits to be provided following termination of employment, typically in exchange for a release of claims. The advantages of employment contracts include defining expectations as to compensation, benefits, responsibilities, and other terms of employment, and can provide enhanced protection of confidential information, prohibit unfair competition and protect against the misappropriation of trade secrets. When an employee leaves a company, whether voluntarily or otherwise, matters can get messy if there is a dispute as to the proper interpretation of the employment contract or disagreement as to the terms of a proposed severance agreement. An employment contract or severance agreement that is not properly drafted may be ambiguous, overbroad, and raise issues as to the parties’ obligations and expectations. Excessive contractual restrictions on future employment (non-compete limitations) are not enforceable, and are subject to judicial construction and limitation. Many businesses recognize the importance of using employment contracts to protect trade secrets and confidential information, including customer and vendor lists, pricing, marketing plans, manufacturing processes, know-how and other proprietary information. Confidentiality and non-compete agreements are enforceable if the terms are reasonable. Factors as to the reasonableness of the terms include whether the restrictions on competition are necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests, impose an undue hardship on the employee, or would be injurious to the public. Employment contracts must be carefully drafted to accomplish the intent of the parties and to minimize the potential for future disputes. When the terms of employment contracts are unclear, the scope of judicial inquiry and interpretation tends to be fact specific and unique to each case. There are many advantages to using legal counsel to draft and review employment contracts, so as to reduce the risk of disputed terms, unenforceable obligations, and unintended consequences. If you have questions about an employment contract, non-compete/non-disclosure agreement, or a severance agreement, please contact us. We have extensive experience drafting and negotiating all types of employment contracts, explaining the terms and proposing revisions acceptable and beneficial to all the parties. We are here to provide practical, cost effective legal advice and guidance.

Trade secret resources: