As a member of the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, the Ohio Chamber submitted a letter to the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee voicing our concerns about legislation to unreasonably expand employer liability under the state’s whistleblower laws. The legislation – HB 238 – is overly broad and would impact private employers when many believe the sponsors’ goal is to address an issue only facing public employers.
Under HB 238, an employee is no longer required to report actions which they believe are illegal to their employer prior to filing a complaint with a prosecutor. Without any notification from an employee, employers may not have any knowledge of the alleged wrong-doing, and they lose the opportunity to correct any suspect actions taken by an employee.
This change in reporting procedures is problematic because HB 238 expands the type of infractions that trigger whistleblower protection. In current law, the infraction must violate a state or federal criminal statute, and the employer must have the authority to correct the action taken. However, HB 238 removes the requirement that an employer has the authority to correct the violation and adds violations of civil statutes, regulations or rules to infractions that will prompt whistleblower protections.
If HB 238 were to become law, employers would be faced with the potential of being made aware of a violation of an administrative rule by an employee when they receive notice of proceedings against them. That result does not benefit anyone because the illegal activity is more likely to continue since failing to notify the employer earlier in the process prevents the employer from taking actions to prevent any lawbreaking.
The Ohio Chamber believes HB 238 will lead to frivolous and expensive lawsuits that companies belonging to the Chamber and the Alliance must divert resources to defend against instead of investing those dollars in their communities, businesses and employees.
The Alliance and the Ohio Chamber will continue to advocate for legislation that promotes a common-sense civil justice system and defend against legislation that we perceive as detrimental to the legal and business climates in Ohio.