What is Employee Rights?
Although most employees in the State of Ohio are considered “at-will” employees, these individuals still enjoy certain employee rights. These employee rights include freedom from discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
"Discrimination" in employment means that an employer is not treating all similarly situated qualified employees or applicants or members equally.
Most unlawful reasons for termination fall into one of two categories. The first is discrimination against someone who is a member of a protected group or class. Examples of protected groups are racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly (or any particular age group) and groups defined by religion, gender, age, race, pregnancy and disability. The second type of unlawful discrimination is based on "protected activities," such as making a workers' compensation claim, serving on a jury, taking protected leave, or reporting an illegal action of the employer.
Discriminatory actions in employment can happen at any stage in the employment cycle when the employer makes some adverse personnel decision, including the decision whether to hire an employee. If the employer's decision is based upon race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age, marital status, family status, veteran's status or mental or physical disability, a claim for discrimination may exist.
The same is true for adverse personnel decisions based upon protected leave, opposition to health or safety conditions, and garnishments. Differences in pay based upon sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or age or other protected classes are also against the law. There are also specific laws relating to gender disparities in compensation. The Federal Equal Pay Act requires that employees performing substantially similar jobs under similar working conditions requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility, must be paid equally regardless of sex.
Differences in pay may be based upon a bona fide seniority system, merit system, differences in productivity, and many other factors unrelated to a person's sex. An employee also may have a wage discrimination claim if there is evidence that sex was a factor in determining wages, even if the employee cannot prove equality of skill, effort and responsibility, or substantial similarity of jobs as required by the Equal Pay Act. Other laws prohibit discrimination in the "terms or conditions" of employment and offer a remedy for wage discrimination on bases other than gender. Discrimination against employees based on a disability is against state and federal laws. A disability is one or more physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities; a record of such impairment; or the employer's mistaken perception that the employee has such an impairment. If an individual with a disability is qualified and can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation must not place an undue burden on the employer. If such an employee requests reasonable accommodation of his or her disability, the employer must attempt to find a reasonable accommodation for the employee, ideally through an "interactive process." "Reasonable accommodation" can include structural changes such as providing wheelchair access, schedule changes, policy modifications, leave, or reassignments of non-essential job duties. The same laws require employee medical information to be kept in confidence and severely limit the kinds of medical inquiries that can be made before offering a job or after the employee has begun work.
Pregnant employees are entitled to the same benefits offered other employees who have similarly disabling conditions. It is also unlawful to discriminate against employees who have taken leaves approved by the Family and Medical Leave Act as well as leave for military obligations.
The law also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs and practices if it would not cause undue hardship to the company. An example would be time off for religious observances. Accommodations also are appropriate when an employee's religious beliefs prohibit his or her financial support of labor organizations.
Ohio law prohibits discrimination because an employee has filed a workers' compensation claim, testified in a workers' compensation hearing, or in some way has participated in the workers' compensation system. An employer may not reject a job applicant for past workers' compensation claims and should not even ask about the applicant's workers' compensation history. An injured worker has extensive rights to reinstatement to the original position of employment or reemployment to available and suitable work.
The Law Firm of David A. Young, LLC represents executives and employees whose rights have been violated throughout the State of Ohio. Attorney David Young has been certified by the Ohio State Bar Association as a Specialist in the area of Labor and Employment Law. Attorney Young has also been recognized as a Super Lawyer in the State of Ohio for the years 2009 through 2013.
If you feel your employee rights have been violated, The Law Firm of David A. Young, LLC provides a free, no-obligation consultation.