Ohio Woman Claims She Was Fired For Voting For Obama
A woman in Ohio is claiming that the defense contractor she worked at fired her shortly after the 2012 election when the employer learned she voted for President Obama:
DAYTON — A Kettering woman alleges in a lawsuit that she was fired for voting for President Obama, a charge the company denies.
Patricia Kunkle is seeking in excess of $25,000 from Dayton-based defense contractor Q-Mark, Inc. and its president and owner, Roberta “Bobbie” Gentile, in a suit filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court. (
Kunkle’s lawsuit claims Gentile threatened employees with termination last year if President Obama was re-elected and that Obama supporters would be the first to be terminated if he were re-elected. Kunkle’s suit said her voting preferences came up in conversation the day after the election and that she was fired Nov. 9 for what the suit claims Gentile said was in the “best interest of the company.”
“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, taking it to the extreme of impairing somebody’s career because they disagree with your political choices is just wrong,” said Kunkle’s attorney, Karen Dunlevey. “We’re hoping that the court will recognize that and adopt a public policy exception for her.”
Gentile’s attorney, Brian Wildermuth, disputed the lawsuit’s premise.
“Ms. Kunkle was laid off for economic reasons – nothing more,” Wildermuth wrote as part of a prepared response to the Dayton Daily News. ” I am sure you and your readers are familiar with the ongoing uncertainties regarding defense spending, and thus the economic environment confronting defense contractors. The allegation that Q-Mark discharged Ms. Kunkle because of her vote is simply false.”
Wildermuth said Kunkle’s position was not filled.
The suit claims Kunkle started as a temporary worker with the small company in April 2012 and became full-time in May 2012. It also says she performed her duties “efficiently and effectively,” never received any disciplinary action or negative performance evaluations. The suit also said Kunkle was paid $12 per hour, was not paid overtime for hours she worked in excess of 40 hours and is not exempt from OT pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The suit also said Gentile engaged Q-Mark employees in conversations aimed at discovering employees’ political affiliations and repeatedly disparaged Obama supporters.
Dunlevey said she typically represents employers in employment litigation but made an exception for this case, which pits at-will employment against Ohio Revised Code 3599, which guards against employers’ intimidation, coercion and retaliation involving elections.
“This case, if they find in our favor, will be making new law,” Dunlevey said. “But there is what’s called wrongful termination/violation of public policy in employment law cases.”
Not being familiar with Ohio law, I’m not going to hazard a guess as to the legal viability of the claim in this case. However, it does seem quite obvious that Kunkle has a significant proof problem here. Unless there’s written evidence somewhere corroborating the allegation that she was fired because of who she voted for, and I tend to doubt that there is, then this is going to boil down to one person’s word against another person’s. Beyond that, there’s the question of whether being fired for political opinions is even actionable under the law. In an at-will employment state such as Ohio, employers are free to fire employees for any reason so long as it’s not a reason barred by applicable Federal or State anti-Discrimination Laws. While ORC 3599 arguably comes close, the statute in question only provides that an employer would be find no more than $1,000 for a violation. There doesn’t appear to be any remedy under this law for back salary or authority for the Court to order the complaining employee to be reinstated. In the end, even if she proves a violation, Kunkle appears to be without any viable remedy.
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