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TexLaw, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 4430
Experience:  Contracts, Wrongful termination and discrimination
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My wife was terminated for not doing her job according to hospital

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My wife was terminated for not doing her job according to hospital policy; however she was fired after filing a hostile workplace complaint according to policy and her so-called failure to do her job was investigated by the nurse she filed the complain against. She was allowed unemployment benefits in Ohio, but later after an appeal by her former employer was then denied benefits and is now expected to pay back what she received. In addition she is unable to find work since her termination. What do we do?

Thank you for your question and I'm very sorry to hear about your wife's situation.

I think the best thing here is to start with an explanation of the law in this area and then discuss your case in particular. In Ohio, and throughout the United States, employment law heavily favors the employer in most situations. Unless the employee has a contract which provides that the employee may only be terminated for cause, the law will hold that the employee's right to work falls under the At Will Doctrine. The At Will Doctrine provides that an employer may terminate an employee for any reason whatsoever, even if it is a false reason. The only limitation on this is that an employer may not terminate an employee because of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry of the employee.

Thus, in order to determine whether your wife has any legal rights here, we need to discuss the hostile workplace complaint. What were the grounds on which she filed the complaint?

Was the hostility shown by the nurse against whom she complained related at all to your wife's race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No; the nurse had been and remained at this time confrontational with my wife (a subordinate); but this time it happened in front of patients and families. My wife reported the incident to her supervisor per hospital protocol. Two weeks later she was discharged after the nurse she reported had investigated my wife's job performance.

Thank you for your response. This is a clear case of retaliation. However, the law does not make all retaliation illegal under the at-will doctrine.

Where the hostile work environment complaint is not linked to your wife's race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry, the law does not provide any actual protection for her against retaliation.

The only plausible protection she might have is if the hospital policies under which she originally made the complaint have a promise that there shall not be any retaliation for filing such a complaint. If that language is within the hospital policies, you can argue that this forms an implied contract which was breached by the employer and thus there was a wrongful termination.

So, the first thing you will need to do is scour the hospital employee manual for any sort of promise for non-retaliation for filing a complaint. If there is, your wife can attempt to bring the case yourself in small claims court, or find a lawyer to represent you locally.

If there is no such language in the employee manual, then I'm afraid there is likely no protection for your wife in this situation.

Please let me know if you have any further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

What about the enemployment board? The original board felt that she had been wrongfully terminated; then after an appeal by the employer a higher (and single person) committee found in favor of the employer; they now want money that they had given to my wife in good faith back (about 7800.00). She is not working what do we do with that? Is there any recourse with the state?

Thank you,

I needed to look through some specific statutes to answer your question completely.

You do in fact have further options.

Your recent appeal with the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission was with a single hearing officer. You may make a written request for review of this by the full review commission. You may submit additional evidence in your request for a review in your written brief. You need to contact the Review Commission to obtain the proper forms and paper work to complete this.

The Unemployment Compensation Review Commission's determination of whether a claimant was discharged with just cause is appealable to the court of common pleas: If the court finds that the decision of the Commission was unlawful, unreasonable, or against the manifest weight of the evidence, it shall reverse, vacate, or modify the decision, or remand the matter to the Commission. Otherwise, the court shall affirm the decision of the Commission. Although not defined by statute, courts have stated that "just cause" is that which, to an ordinarily intelligent person, is a justifiable reason for doing or not doing a particular act. The determination whether there is just cause for discharge depends upon the factual circumstances of each case. What constitutes just cause must be analyzed in conjunction with the legislative purpose underlying the Unemployment Compensation Act. Essentially, the Act's purpose is to enable unfortunate employees, who become and remain involuntarily unemployed by adverse business and industrial conditions, to subsist on a reasonably decent level and is in keeping with the humanitarian and enlightened concepts of this modern day. The Act does not exist to protect employees from themselves, but to protect them from economic forces over which they have no control. When an employee is at fault, he is no longer the victim of fortune's whims, but is instead directly responsible for his own predicament. Fault on the employee's part separates him from the Act's intent and the Act's protection. Thus, fault is essential to the unique chemistry of a just cause termination. Williams v. Ohio Dep't of Job & Family Servs.,XXXXX 3d 332

After obtaining a ruling from the court of common pleas, you may then appeal all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your help thus far; how do I prove my case though. We have nothing in writing to prove any of our case which I think is why we lost the first appeal.

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

Are they denying that your wife filed a hostile work environment claim?

Does your wife have the employee handbook?

Did she retain any copies of the written complaint forms that she submitted?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Sorry for my delay. She was required to return the handbook when she was terminated. She followed the protocols within the book which called for a verbal meeting with her supervisor with regard to the workplace issues. Unemployment stated that she was terminated for not performing her job according to policies within the handbook. It was a coincidence that the person she reported was the same one that investigated her. Her supervisor stood by this and fabricated previous "counseling sessions" to make my wife appear to be not doing her job; however she had received a performance evaluation weeks before being terminated and was given high marks for job performance.

I've got to tell you. If you don't have evidence, and its your wife's word against their word, then you are going to have a very difficult time with this appeal.

You could have likely requested "discovery" during the initial stages of the unemployment claim. However, if you do not have documentary evidence to support you, I don't see how you are going to overcome the burden on you to prove that your wife was not fired for cause, especially if the employer is lying about their being pre-existing counseling sessions.

Your best bet would be to find a witness to support your wife's side of the story, an ex-co-worker who is willing to stick her neck out.

Otherwise, I think it will be very hard for you to win this.
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