Last summer, in Alexander v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation, the
Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals held that a police officer, fired after
several outbursts while working traffic control, could proceed to trial with
his wrongful discharge claim. He claimed that because his termination
jeopardized the state's public policy in favor of police officers enforcing the
law, he should have been able to pursue his public policy wrongful discharge
Three months later, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Dohme v. Eurand America, holding that to support a
wrongful discharge claim, a plaintiff must identify the specific federal or
state constitutional provisions, statutes, regulations, or common law that
support the public policy relied upon.
Following Dohme, the Ohio Supreme Court vacated
the appellate court's decision and set it back to the appellate court for a
Second verse, same as the first. In Alexander v. Cleveland Clinic Foundation II (4/19/12), the
same panel of the same appellate court again concluded that Alexander was
entitled to proceed to trial on his public policy claim.
Pursuant to Dohme, the court considered whether
Alexander had clearly supported his public policy argument with a specific
statement of law from the federal or state constitution, statutes,
administrative rules and regulations, or common law:
Alexander claimed that public policy dictates that police
officers enforce the laws of the state of Ohio; thus, discharging a police
officer for enforcing the laws "would jeopardize the public policy of wanting
police officers to enforce Ohio laws." ... Alexander cited R.C. 1702.80(D) in
support of his public policy argument. The statute ... provides that ... a
qualified nonprofit corporation ... police department ... "shall preserve the
peace, protect persons and property, enforce the laws of the state." ... [H]ere,
Alexander cited to "a specific statement of law" that was drawn from R.C.
The takeaway for employers-Ohio or otherwise-hasn't
changed since I first reported on Alexander last year:
Public policy wrongful discharge claims often hinge on
the combination of two influences: the creativity of the employee's attorney to
pigeonhole the circumstances surrounding the discharge into a specific state or
federal constitution, statute or administrative regulation, or in the common
law; and the court's opinion of that particular public policy.
The unpredictability of these claims
underscores the need for employers to treat every termination like a
potentially litigious event.
Visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog for more
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