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Can You Get Your Job Back If Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract?Bryce LenoxBy Bryce A. Lenox on Thursday, March 26, 2015Oftentimes, employees enter into employment contracts with their employer for a period of years.  Sometimes there are disagreements among them, and employees may be terminated, whether rightfully or wrongfully.  If the latter, can the employee be returned to employment?  In Cedar Fair LP v. Falfas, 2014 Ohio 3943, the Ohio Supreme Court answered that question, holding that an employee may return to his job in very limited circumstances.

In Cedar Fair, Falfas was the Chief Operating Officer for Cedar Fair, and signed an employment contract.  Tensions arose between Falfas and Cedar Fair’s CEO, and after a heated conversation, Falfas believed that he had been fired, while Cedar Fair believed that Falfas had resigned.  The parties arbitrated the matter, and the arbitrator ordered Cedar Fair to restore Falfas to his previous position.

On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed.  The Court first noted a long history of Ohio precedent that precludes specific performance – the performance of a contractual obligation – in service contracts and employment agreements.  While the Court noted a few narrow exceptions to the rule in cases involving collective-bargaining agreements, civil-service laws, and civil-rights laws, the Court noted that none of those exceptions applied in this case.

The Court then looked to the terms of Falfas’ contract to determine whether reinstatement was a bargained-for provision.  Finding none, the Court ultimately opined that “specific performance is not an available remedy for breach of an employment contract unless it is explicitly provided for in the contract or by an applicable statute.”  Instead, money damages should be awarded in those circumstances.

The Court’s opinion in Cedar Fair is not surprising, as it merely followed longstanding precedent in Ohio.  The takeaway from the case is that if an employee for whatever reason wishes to return to his employment after a heated contract dispute with his employer, that provision must be explicitly set forth in the employment contract.       
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