Ohio: Trouble-Maker Fails to Prove Discharge Was Because of Workers’ Compensation Claims

Acknowledging that two employees who had been embroiled in a shouting match during the work day had been treated different by the employer–the employee who apparently started the argument received a verbal warning which, under union rules, was not considered formal discipline, while the other employee, who was yelled at and spit upon, was fired, an Illinois appellate court recently held that while such disparate treatment implied that “something else” came into play to trigger the employee’s discharge, the discharged employee had failed to show that the reason was related to the number of workers’ compensation claims that the discharged employee had filed against the employer [Perri v. The Sutphen Corp., 2014-Ohio–2795; 2014 Ohio App. LEXIS 2736 (June 26, 2014)]. 

The court indicated that while the reason for the firing could have been related to the workers’ compensation claims, other reasons could also have been involved and the discharged employee “had the burden of producing facts which narrowed the reason for his firing to retaliation for his workers’ compensation activity.” Other evidence suggested the discharged employee had a history of not getting along with co-workers, that he had made disparaging remarks about African-Americans and that he was a source of dissension on the factory floor. Evidence pointed to the fact that the employee was discharged to solve the personnel problems which centered around him.

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