When Tammy Greer-Burger took her former employer to court for alleged sexual harassment, she probably didn't expect him to counter with a legal punch of his own and that the court would stand in his corner. Now the question is: Did this bout of dueling lawsuits end in a draw, or did employers gain the upper hand?
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in Greer-Burger v. Temesi in December 2007 that employers can sue employees without fear of being accused of retaliation. The court held that "an employer is not barred from filing a well-grounded, objectively based action against an employee who has engaged in protected activity." It stated that it was balancing "the statutory right of an employee to seek redress for claims of discrimination without retaliation against the constitutional right of an employer to petition courts for redress."
The court warned that the OCRC decision "has the potential to give employees a carte blanche right to file malicious, defamatory and otherwise false claims."
Plaintiffs' employment attorneys worry that the Ohio decision will discourage employes from filing discrimination charges.
Annunziata says, "The ruling gives judges a reason to say, 'The employer was ticked off, but it's not retaliation because the underlying suit was frivolous.' But the jury will be out for a while as to whether this decision has any major impact."