Court: No Public Policy Right to Sue Employer

August 26, 2003 ( - An Ohio state appeals court has turned away an appeal by a psychologist who claims he was wrongfully fired in 2001 for suing his employer over his retirement benefits.

>In writing for the three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Chief Judge Lee Hildebrandt, Jr. said plaintiff Purcell Taylor, Jr. was wrong when he argued that state public policy dictated that an employee should be allowed to sue his or her employer.

>Taylor sued his company, Volunteers of America, in April 2001 over a dispute about a life insurance policy that had been secured to serve as his retirement benefit. A lower court judge threw out Taylor’s case and he appealed.

>The appeals judges ruled that:

  • A worker is free to consult a lawyer and then decide whether it would be in his or her best interest to sue the employer. “….we nonetheless are persuaded that an employee may freely elect between filing suit and jeopardizing his employment on the one hand and foregoing litigation and protecting the employment relationship on the other,” Hildebrandt wrote.
  • Protecting a worker’s right to sue as a public policy matter would disrupt the employee-employer relationship. “The employer should be able to freely inform the employee of performance problems so that the employee may work with the employer to correct those problems,” Hildebrandt wrote. “If the filing of suit were a protected decision, we agree that there would be the danger than an employee, anticipating an adverse job action due to poor performance, would file suit against his employer as a ‘preemptive strike’ against termination.”
  • Existing Ohio law already protects workers from retaliation for filing employer suits in certain situations. “In our view, this demarcation of the employee’s right to seek redress against his employer strikes the proper balance between the employee’s interest in protecting recognized rights and the employer’s interest in maintaining a loyal and responsive workforce,” the appeals judges said.