Elements of a Claim of Wrongful Discharge In Violation of Public Policy

In Greeley v. Miami Valley Maintenance Contr., Inc. (1989), 49 Ohio St.3d 228, 551 N.E.2d 981, the Ohio Supreme Court first recognized that there is an exception to the at-will employment doctrine when an employee is discharged or disciplined for a reason that violates the clear public policy of Ohio. To state a claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, a plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating that the employer's act of discharging her contravened a clear public policy. Painter v. Graley (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 377, 383, 1994 Ohio 334, 639 N.E.2d 51. There are four elements of a claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy: "'1. That a clear public policy existed and was manifested in a state or federal constitution, statute or administrative regulation, or in the common law (the clarity element). "'2. That dismissing employees under circumstances like those involved in the plaintiff's dismissal would jeopardize the public policy (the jeopardy element). "'3. the plaintiff's dismissal was motivated by conduct related to the public policy (the causation element). "'4. the employer lacked overriding legitimate business justification for the dismissal (the overriding justification element).'" Kulch v. Structural Fibers, Inc. (1997), 78 Ohio St.3d 134, 151, 1997 Ohio 219, 677 N.E.2d 308. The first two elements are questions of law to be decided by the court, and the second two elements are questions of fact to be decided by the trier of fact. Collins v. Rizkana (1995), 73 Ohio St.3d 65, 70, 1995 Ohio 135, 652 N.E.2d 653.