Ohio Public Employees’ Whistle-blower Protection Venue

The Columbus Dispatch this morning relays “Joseph Sommer pictures corruption in state government gaining a foothold unless Ohio law is changed to protect workers who blow the whistle on misconduct,” following his receiving  a letter of reprimand from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, where he was formerly a lawyer,  in 2009 for reporting to the inspector general a failure to follow state law in nominating candidates to serve on the Industrial Commission. The Dispatch says he maintained the reprimand violated whistle-blower protections and appealed to the State Personnel Board of Review and then Franklin County Common Pleas Court, losing in both venues.

Taking his case to Franklin County’s 10th. District Court of Appeals, the Dispatch relates “led to a ruling denounced as failing to protect state employees from job retaliation for reporting wrongdoing… The appellate court ruling on Dec. 30 that while state law protects the jobs of whistle-blowers who report criminal conduct to the Ohio inspector general, state workers have no protection when filing reports involving noncriminal matters."

Sommer is now asking Ohio's high court that that decision be reversed, claiming that the appeals court ruling “deprived him of equal protection under the law because those who report criminal conduct cannot face job retaliation while those who turn in reports of noncriminal conduct are not protected.” [Case Docket]

The Dispatch's article also reported that both House Republicans and Democrats have introduced bills to extend whistle-blower protections to those reporting noncriminal conduct to the inspector general; Reps. Nick Barborak of Lisbon, and Connie Pillich of Montgomery introducing HB 426 on Feb. 4th., and Reps. Mike Dovilla of Berea, and Bill Hayes of Granville, HB 439, Tuesday.