Subscribe to School Law Newsletter
Close Window

“Stray Remarks” and Lack of “Opposition” or “Participation” in a Protected Activity Do Not Support Ohio Civil Rights Act Violations

In the case of Grim v. Cleveland Clinic Found., 2023-Ohio-713, an appellate court dismissed workplace racial discrimination and retaliation claims asserted by a police officer employee against a hospital employer as the employee failed to present any factual evidence in support of such claims and, instead, rested solely upon mere conclusory allegations that the employer violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act (R.C. Chapter 4112).

In this case, the employee alleged — without any factual evidence — that the employee was fired due to racial discrimination and in retaliation for placing a parking boot on the car of a physician, arresting the physician over a confrontation consisting of stray remarks directed toward the employee arising from the parking boot, and generating a police report regarding the incident. In response, the employer argued that no discriminatory animus existed toward the employee; the employee never filed a discrimination complaint; the employee was not engaged in a protected activity; and the employee was terminated because the employee unnecessarily escalated the situation, violated hospital policies, and had a long disciplinary history. The appellate court agreed with the employer.

In support of its decision in favor of the employer as to the racial discrimination claim, the appellate court explained that the employee failed to present any direct evidence of discrimination and that “’”[s]tray remarks in the workplace, when unrelated to the decision-making process are insufficient to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, even when the statements are made by the decision-maker at issue.”’” 2023-Ohio-713 at ¶ 25.

In support of its decision in favor of the employer as to the retaliation claim, the appellate court explained that the employee failed to present any evidence of the employee engaging in either an opposition to or participation in a protective activity necessary to establish a retaliation claim in violation of the Ohio Civil Rights Act as the employee did nothing more than generate an incident report as part of the employee’s job duties as a police officer, which simply narrated the events leading up to the physician’s arrest. Specifically, the appellate court explained that:

“An employee’s activity is ‘protected’ for purposes of [retaliation] if the employee has ‘opposed any unlawful discriminatory practice’ (the ‘opposition clause’) or ‘made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing under sections 4112.01 to 4112.07 of the Revised Code’ (the ‘participation clause’).”

Id. at ¶ 29.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.