Government Employees - Personnel Board of Review Cases

Certain government employees are entitled to a hearing for employment-related actions such as suspensions, demotions, terminations, and layoffs.  Such hearings take place in front of the Ohio Personnel Board of Review (PBR). I have handled many PBR cases against various government employers and have obtained several positive outcomes.

Below are answers to some of the most common questions I receive about PBR cases. 

What is the Ohio Personnel Board of Review?

It is a court that hears appeals from certain government employees who wish to challenge adverse employment actions.  

How does the process start?

When the employer takes adverse action against the employee, the employer will issue an order.  That order is commonly referred to as an R.C. 124.34 order.  It will state what action is being taken against the employee and the basis for the action.  There is a limited amount of time to respond to the order, and the employee must timely file an appeal to protect his or her rights.  

What if my employer took action against me without issuing an order?

There may be a number of reasons why an employer takes adverse action against an employee without issuing an order.  For example, the discipline may be so small in nature that no order was required under the law, or perhaps the employer believes the employee is unclassified (a category of employees not entitled to PBR hearings), or maybe the employer mistakenly failed to do so.  My recommendation:  file an appeal and do not simply take your employer’s word that no order was required; they are not on your side and employers are often wrong about such things.  There will be time later to sort out why an order was not issued.  Also, promptly contact a knowledgeable attorney and to discuss the matter.  Note: employees who should have received an order but did do so have additional time to file their appeal, but the deadline is not indefinite.  Do not delay in filing the appeal.

I don’t know if I have a “good case"; should I still appeal?

Yes.  The best way to learn about the strength of your case is to talk with an attorney knowledgeable about PBR cases.  In the meantime, you should timely file an appeal.  If you fail to timely file, your opportunity to present your appeal will be lost.  

My employer has told me that I may resign and not face discipline or termination; should I resign?

No.  Once a person resigns, he or she loses his or her rights to a PBR hearing.  Employers sometimes use this tactic to pressure employees to resign and thereafter the employer no longer has an obligation to prove its basis for taking action against the employee, thereby avoiding a weak case.  At a very minimum, an employee who has been asked to resign should consult with a qualified attorney before making any decision to do so.

Is settlement an option?

Settlement is an option for many cases.  Of course, each case is different, and settlement possibilities depend upon a variety of factors.  Even if you think your case can be settled, you should still timely request an appeal.  If you fail to timely request an appeal, PBR will have no jurisdiction to hear your case and the opposing side will lose its motivation to settle.

What is a PBR hearing like?

A PBR hearing is similar to a trial, but instead of a jury, a hearing officer will decide the facts.  At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present evidence (testimony, documents, etc.) to support and defend your position.  You may also make legal arguments for your case.  And you may challenge the evidence and arguments made against you.

Is It Worth It To Hire An Attorney?

Generally speaking, a person’s chances of a favorable outcome are far better when an attorney represents him or her.   Attorneys have years of training and experience that cannot be acquired by watching courtroom television dramas or by reading books about the law.  While there are no guarantees about how a case may turn out, a knowledgeable and reputable attorney can give you a fair appraisal of your case's strengths and weaknesses.

Be certain to ask about various fee options.  Some attorneys work only an hourly basis, but others offer contingency fee representation.  A contingency fee can be beneficial to persons without money to hire an attorney because, in such situations, the employee only pays for attorney fees if he or she gets a favorable outcome to the case.

Is every employee in government service entitled to appeal to PBR?

No, only government employees working in the "classified service" are entitled to appeal.  Whether a person is in the classified or unclassified service will depend upon the employee’s job duties and can often become a complex issue.  When in doubt, the employee should assume he or she is in the classified service and should promptly file an appeal with PBR.  Employees should never simply take their employer's word that they are unclassified and have no standing to bring a PBR appeal.  Employers are often wrong about such things.  An employee who relies on the employer's bad advice and waits too long to file an appeal will be time-barred from bringing the appeal - even if he or she was truly classified and entitled to do so all along.   Consult with a knowledgeable attorney on the classified/unclassified issue, and do not delay in doing so.

Non-Government Employees 

Ohio is generally an “at will” employment State.  Generally, this means employees in the private sector (non-government employees) may be terminated at the employer’s will (with or without reason).  However, there are certain exceptions to the “at will” doctrine.  For example, a person may not be terminated on the basis of his or her or her race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry.  This would be a civil rights violation.  Also, a person may not be terminated for reporting illegal or dangerous activity by the employer. This would be a whistleblower violation.  Additionally, the employment manual or a contract that a person works under might afford protections beyond those of “at will” status.

More questions?

Call me for a free initial consultation at 330-321-4305.

Copyright 2014, JJL