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COVID-19 Is A Daily Life Hazard, Not a Special Workplace Danger

In the case of Dudley v. Siler Excavation Servs., L.L.C., 2023-Ohio-666, an appellate court held that an at-will employee did not have a cause of action against an employer for wrongful termination after the employee was terminated for questioning workplace policies that contradicted state and federal COVID-19 guidance.

In this case, the at-will employee argued that being terminated for criticizing the COVID-19 policies of the employer is “in contravention of a sufficiently clear public policy” and, therefore, precludes the termination of the employee’s at-will employment with the employer. In response, the employer argued the at-will employee was terminated for challenging the employer’s COVID-19 policies, not for reporting any illness, and that federal and state COVID-19 guidance were simply suggestions, not mandates. The appellate court agreed with the employer.

In support of its decision in favor of the employer, the appellate court explained that “[t]here is nothing to suggest COVID-19, or any other communicable disease or virus, poses a special danger because of her job or workplace;” rather “COVID-19 is simply a hazard of daily life.” 2023-Ohio-666 at ¶ 23. The appellate court further explained that the at-will employee was not terminated for reporting a coworker’s illness, but upon the employee’s disagreement with the employer’s COVID-19 policies. With respect to the employer’s COVID-19 policies, the appellate court explained that federal and state COVID-19 guidance were simply suggestions, not mandates, and such general societal suggestions do not amount to specific laws evincing public policy.

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.

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