Visitor Question

Can I be fired from teaching due to injury?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Cleveland, Ohio)

I’m a school teacher. As I was walking into a classroom an 8th grade student came running, bumped into me, and made a contusion on my foot. I was on light duty (on pay) for 5 weeks.

After 15 years teaching at the school, the principal has decided to let me go. She says she doesn’t have a need for my expertise anymore. She says that she would rather have another subject instead of mine. However, the subject that I teach is critical component of the school program, and what is advertised to the community.

I feel I’m being penalized for something that was not my fault with the possibility of loosing my job completely.

Do you think I have discriminatory case? Or a case for wrongful termination?

By the way, I do have a certain illness that creates the need for me to be absent from work 5%-8% of the time. I have been on Family Medical Leave due to my health condition. However, my illnesses are not an obstacles for me to fulfill my duties

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

If you were discharged in retaliation for a work-related injury or an ongoing medical condition, you may have a case for wrongful termination.

Ohio recognizes the at-will employment doctrine which gives an employer the right to discharge an employee for any reason or for no reason at all. There are, however, some exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine that may apply to your situation.

Exceptions to the At-Will Employment doctrine:

  1. If you are working under an employment contract, then you are not considered an at-will employee, and your employer may have breached that employment contract in the way he’s treating you.
  2. Ohio law recognizes a public-policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine for situations where an employer fires an employee in retaliation for a worker’s compensation claim. You didn’t mention filing a worker’s compensation claim, so this exception may not apply to you.
  3. Ohio law also recognizes an implied-contract exception in situations where there is not an employment contract but one is implied by the situation and circumstances of your employment.

Family Medical Leave Act

You also mentioned that you have taken leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides certain employees with up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.

An employee can be terminated from employment while on FMLA leave if the leave extends beyond the twelve week protected period. The FMLA does protect you from being fired if your leave is within the permitted twelve weeks.

Americans With Disabilities Act

You also may be entitled to a workplace accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for a known disability of an employee if those accommodations would not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.

The ADA defines an employee with a disability as someone who:

“… has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

Under the ADA, working is a major life activity.

Finally, if you are a member of the Ohio Federation of Teachers or the Ohio Education Association you can contact those organizations to ask questions and seek help.

Wrongful termination claims can be difficult to prove. Consulting with an experienced plaintiff’s employment attorney can help you better understand your rights under Ohio and federal law.

Learn more here: Getting Fired After an Injury

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

Best of luck with your claim,

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