Whistleblower Protection Law in Ohio
Welcome to the Cleveland Employment Law Blog. Here you will find useful information about your rights as an employee.
General "whistleblower" protection is afforded under Ohio law to employees by statute, Ohio Revised Code section 4112.52. It is imperative that you follow the detailed process set forth in the statute. If you fail to do so you will not be entitled to whistleblower protection.
The Ohio whistleblower statute is tricky to navigate. I strongly urge you to seek legal advice before you report suspected illegal activity to your employer.
This article pertains to two of the three categories afforded protection under R.C. 4112.52. The third category pertains to state laws governing pollution control, specifically violations of R.C. 3704 (air pollution laws), 3734 (hazardous waste), 6109 (drinking water safety), and 6111 (water pollution).
The first whistleblower situation comes into play when you think that the company is engaging in illegal activity by (A) committing a felony; (B) committing a crime that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or a hazard to pubic health or safety; or (C) making an improper solicitation for a political contribution. You must have more than a suspicion. You must have a reasonable belief based on your own reasonable and good faith effort to determine the accuracy of any information you want to report. If you have done so and reasonably believe that (A), (B) or (C) above is occurring, then you can orally report your information to your supervisor or a company officer. You must then, after making the oral report, provide that person with a written report detailing the illegal activity. If your employer does not correct the violation or make a good faith effort to do so within twenty-four hours, you may then provide your written report to authorities outside the company, including the county prosecutor.
The second situation applies when you think that a co-worker is engaging in illegal activity or violating a company work rule or policy that is (A) a felony; (B)a crime that is likely to cause an imminent risk of physical harm to persons or a hazard to public health or safety; or (C) an improper solicitation for a political contribution. In this situation you can orally report your information to your supervisor or a company officer. You are not required to undertake a reasonable and good faith effort to determine the accuracy of any information you want to report; however, your belief in the existence of illegal activity must be reasonable.
If you follow the statute to the letter, your employer cannot retaliate against you for making the reports permitted under the statute. Of course this does not mean that your employer will not retaliate. If retaliation occurs, the statute provides you with a remedy to compensate for the employer's actions against you.
Again, I strongly urge you to speak with a lawyer if you find yourself in a potential whistleblower situation. Also, this article is not meant to provide legal advice or direction. It is only intended to help you gain a general understanding of the legal landscape. There is no replacement for obtaining advice from a lawyer. You should seek such help before you engage in the whistleblower process.
Please feel free to leave comments and questions.
You should also always feel free to contact me at the Law Offices of David W. Neel located at 55 Public Square, Suite 1950, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. I can be reached at 216-522-0011.
David W. Neel