GOP Majority On Ohio Supreme Court Fails To Protect Worker From Retaliation

Republican Justices Routinely Protect Powerful Special Interests, Over People of Ohio

COLUMBUS — In yet another example of how the Republican justices on the Ohio Supreme Court routinely vote to protect powerful special interests over the people, the GOP majority this month sided with a restaurant owner who fired a seven-year employee after she complained he was underreporting her income to the state.

“Christine House was a restaurant server in Medina County who was fired for causing ‘drama,’ according to her former employer,” said Ohio Democratic Party Communications Director Kirstin Alvanitakis. “Well, the ‘drama’ that Ms. House caused was calling out her employer for violating state unemployment compensation law.

“She sued for wrongful termination, and the Republican majority threw out her lawsuit. In their opinion, there was no public policy need served by allowing House to have her day in court. Instead of protecting a worker from retaliation, the GOP justices all sided with her employer, who allegedly attempted to cover up its misdeeds by asking her to lie to the state about the circumstances of her firing and offering her an under-the-table payoff. That’s outrageous. In 2020, we need to elect new justices who will stand up to the powerful special interests that have unduly influenced the Ohio Supreme Court for decades.”

Republican Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judith French were a part of the 5-2 majority that sided with the employer in House v. Iacovelli, while Justices Melody Stewart and Michael P. Donnelly sided with the law and voted to protect the worker. Stewart’s dissent notes that House “did everything right under the circumstances” — and still was denied the opportunity to argue her case before a jury of her peers. Under these facts, Stewart wrote:

“… House did everything right under the circumstances. Not only did she attempt to discourage unlawful behavior by confronting her employer about its reporting violations, but later, after being fired for her actions, she declined to engage in conduct akin to fraud and bribery even though her unemployed status and diminished capacity to collect unemployment benefits might have put pressure on her to do otherwise. In light of the circumstances in which House was dismissed, I find the majority’s assurances that the administrative remedies in R.C. Chapter 4141 protect the public from an employer’s wage-reporting violations entirely unconvincing. In my estimation, by refusing to recognize the necessity of a wrongful-termination claim, the majority opinion does more to encourage employer underreporting than the statutory remedy provisions could ever do to discourage it.”