What Ohio Employees Need To Know About Whistleblower Law
The Ohio Whistleblower Protection Act, R.C. § 4113.52 (the “WPA”), is designed to protect employees who “blow the whistle” as a result of employer retaliation. However, employees must be aware that the WPA only applies when all of following requirements are met:
- the employee must be reporting a violation of a state or federal statute or regulation or municipal ordinance;
- the employee reasonably believes that the violation is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm, is a hazard to the public health or safety or is a felony, or is an improper solicitation for a contribution;
- the employee notifies the employee’s supervisor or responsible officer of the employer in writing, providing the employer with sufficient detail to identify and describe the violation.
Unless all these requirements are met, the WPA will not protect employees who report unlawful misconduct by other employees, supervisors or the company.
Key Point: the employee must report the violation in writing – an email will do – but failure to provide written documentation of the violation to the employer is fatal to a WPA whistleblower protection claim.
Key Point: the employee must reasonably believe either that the reported violation is a criminal offense that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm or is a hazard to the public health or safety; or alternatively that the violation is a felony.
When these requirements are met, an employee may pursue recourse against an employer who retaliates against the employee for submitting the report. The WPA permits Courts to award remedies including reinstatement (where appropriate), lost wages, benefits, seniority rights, and attorney fees.
Other sources of Ohio whistleblower protection:
R.C. § 4123.90: Protecting employees from retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim or otherwise asserting workers compensation rights
Sources of Federal whistleblower protection:
Under federal law, many statutes provide whistleblower protection, but the catch is that the whistle blower protection is limited to reports concerning a violation of the specific statute. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. 2087, et seq., prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report conduct the employee reasonably believes is a violation of a consumer product safety law.
Whistleblower protection laws are technical and complex. Employees who are considering whistleblower activity should contact an attorney. Folkerth and Folkerth has extensive experience representing employees and employers in cases involving whistleblower issues.
Disclaimer: This article has been prepared by attorneys employed by this firm and is provided for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about our firm, our services and the experience of our attorneys. The information presented is not legal advice, may not be applicable or may be contrary to the laws of certain jurisdictions, is not to be acted upon as legal advice, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice.