The Hurm Law Firm fights for workers’ families and their unions to ensure everyone gets the fair shake they deserve. We handle matters such as wage theft, employer discrimination, and wrongful termination. There are many different kinds of labor and employment laws and your employment status impacts the kinds of protections you enjoy.
Importance of Understanding Labor Laws
The vast majority of workers in Ohio are at-will employees. At-will workers are generally powerless to their bosses and the whims of corporations. If you are lucky enough to be a unionized employee, you have a lot more power at your workplace. That said, there are significant differences between publicly-employed union employees and privately-employed union employees. There are also independent contractors and contract employees. There are different rules for each type of employee, so it is important to know which kind of employee you are.
The Different Types of Ohio Labor Laws
There are five types of employment in Ohio with vastly different kinds of labor laws that apply:
- At-Will Employees: Over 75% of Ohio employees are at-will employees. This means you are not a member of a union and you have no employment contract. You have very limited protections for your job, but they do exist. Those employment law protections include: workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, protection from unlawful discrimination, protection if you are a lawful whistleblower, protection from unsafe workplaces, etc. That said, it’s lawful for employers to fire an at-will employee for any lawful reason. Example: In Wisconsin, an at-will employee was fired because her husband, a police officer, gave her boss a ticket. The Wisconsin Supreme Court found that it was lawful for the boss to punish his wife by discharging her even though she did nothing wrong and her husband was just doing his job.
- Contract Employees: Many doctors and sales professionals are contract employees. If you have a contract which covers the terms and conditions of your employment, but are not a union member, then you are a contract employee. Contract employees are protected by their contract, so they need to understand the details of that contract. Unless the contract expressly says otherwise, they also have the full protections of workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, protection from unlawful discrimination, protection if you are a lawful whistleblower, protection from unsafe workplaces, etc.
- Union Employees (Public Sector): These employees work for the federal, state, or local governments and are union members. As union members, they have the protection of a collective bargaining agreement. All or virtually all collective bargaining agreements provide these employees with “just cause” protection, meaning your boss actually has to have a good reason to discipline or terminate you. As a union employee in the public sector you have all the protections of at-will employees, plus those protections available under Ohio Revised Code 4117, the benefit of a union contract, and frequently, participation in defined benefit plans such as OPERS.
- Union Employees (Private Sector): There are union members that are not employed by the government. Many building trades are unionized, as are many manufacturing plants, utility companies, and transportation companies. By being a union employee, you have the benefit of a collective bargaining agreement. All or virtually all collective bargaining agreements provide these employees with “just cause” protection, meaning your boss actually has to have a good reason to discipline or terminate you. As a union employee in the private sector you have all the protections of at-will employees, plus those protections available under the National Labor Relations Act, the benefit of a union contract, and frequently, participation in defined benefit plans.
- Independent Contractors: These individuals are not employees at all. They are under contract to perform a specific service and completely control their mode of work. These individuals do not enjoy any of the following protections: workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, protection from unlawful discrimination, protection from unsafe workplaces, etc. Frequently, major employers try to treat their lawful employees as independent contractors to avoid having to pay or provide the above benefits. If your employer talks about you as an independent contractor, you need to treat that as a red flag and protect yourself by securing other employment.
No matter your employment status, the Hurm Law Firm is able to help. We handle workers’ compensation claims (work injuries) as well as all labor and employment laws and protections outlined above. The Hurm Law Firm really is your one-stop shop for your work troubles.