What is “retaliation,” and can I sue for losses suffered as a result?

In Ohio and under federal law, retaliation can serve as the basis for a claim against an employer that is just as worthy of redress as the discriminatory or unlawful act that preceded it.

Retaliation goes well beyond a former employer giving bad references. No employer may take any adverse job action against you, fire you, demote you, refuse to promote you, reassign you, modify your terms of employment, or take any steps not otherwise justified by law if such conduct was related in any way to your having filed a charge of discrimination, a complaint for violation of occupational health or safety laws, a report with authorities with evidence of your employer having committed a felony or having engaged in conduct that would tend to compromise public health or safety, or a claim for benefits under an employer-sponsored group benefit plan or for worker’s compensation.

No employer may retaliate against you for helping anyone else to file a discrimination action, act as a whistleblower, or file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits or unemployment compensation.

If you feel you have been the victim of retaliation in the work setting, contact my office for an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.

My former employer is giving me a bad reference. Is there anything I can do about that?

Defamation is an intentional act committed for the purpose of injuring the reputation of another. It requires various elements, the most important of which are that a statement made about the other person must have been false when made and must have been communicated in some fashion with either an understanding that it would be interpreted by the listener or reader in a way that would hold the subject of the communication in disrepute or in a way that manifests a conscious or reckless disregard for whether the statement would have that effect.

The proof on each of these elements under Ohio law must be based on “clear and convincing” evidence.

Not long ago, the State Legislature in Ohio passed a bill that essentially immunizes a worker’s former employer against claims of defamation asserted with respect to an evaluation of an employee’s performance during a reference check. Thanks to this law, you cannot personally sue your former employer or any of its management employees unless you could prove by clear and convincing evidence that your former employer either knew the information they shared with another about you was false and that your former employer shared this false information for the specific purpose of maligning your reputation.