Friday, July 12, 2024

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Employment Effects of DUI/OVI in Ohio

News stories frequently report that a high-profile person lost employment due to a DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) conviction or arrest.  The latest story in Ohio is about defensive end Lonnie Phelps who was released from the Cleveland Browns following his arrest for DUI.  While the average person may not have their OVI case reported by the media, they may still face employment repercussions from an OVI.

How an OVI may Affect Employment
My firm has represented hundreds of clients concerned about the impact of an OVI on their employment.  We have found the effect on employment varies from person to person because employment arrangements vary.  Some people have an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement.  Others have a written handbook of company policies, while some have no written employment guidelines.  In addition, some employers take action only if there is an OVI conviction, while other employers take action based simply on an accusation of OVI.

Employees With an Employment Contract
If an employee has an employment contract, the contract may specify the consequences of an OVI conviction or arrest.  Even if the contract does not contain a provision related to OVI, the contract may have a ‘morals clause’ which requires employees to abide by ethical standards which reflect the employer’s values.  The employee should review the employment contract closely to determine the anticipated action the employer will take regarding the employee’s OVI. 

Employees Without an Employment Contract
If an employee does not have an employment contract but has a handbook of company policies, the handbook may contain a policy related to OVI.  The handbook may also have a ‘morals’ policy, a policy related to missing work for court or incarceration, or a policy regarding the inability to perform the job (e.g., due to a license suspension).  This type of employee should scrutinize the policies to know if an OVI violates a company policy and what consequences may flow from the policy violation.  If an employee is part of a collective bargaining agreement, the employee should review the agreement and should also discuss the situation with a union steward.

If an employee has no employment contract or company policies, the employee will be in the dark regarding the employment consequences of an OVI.  Without a contract or collective bargaining agreement, an person is employed ‘at will’ in Ohio.  That means the employer can terminate the person’s employment for any reason or no reason.

Employees With Special Circumstances
Employees in some occupations are especially affected by an OVI.  A person whose employment requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) faces unique challenges because an OVI conviction or Administrative License Suspension results in a disqualification of a CDL.  A person who drives an Uber, Lyft or taxi will likely face termination for an OVI conviction.  The same may be true for a person who drives a company vehicle, as most insurers will not cover company-owned vehicles if a driver has an OVI conviction.  Other occupations which may be especially impacted include pilots, civil service, military, and positions which require professional licensure or security clearances.

Avoiding an OVI Conviction
For some employees, the mere accusation of an OVI may impact employment.  For other employees, employment is only affected if there is an OVI conviction.  For all employees charged with OVI, it is wise to review the relevant employment documents to know the ramifications of a charge and a conviction.  For people whose employment will be affected by a conviction, the best course of action is usually to contest the OVI charge and seek to avoid an OVI conviction with the help of a skilled OVI defense lawyer.

About the Author:  Shawn Dominy is a leading OVI lawyer in Ohio and the founder of the Dominy Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio.  He can be reached through his law firm’s website:  Dominy Law Firm.

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Shawn Dominy

Shawn Dominy

Shawn Dominy is a DUI/OVI lawyer in Columbus, Ohio. He is the former President of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the state delegate to the National College for DUI Defense and a long-time member of the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers. Shawn Dominy authored the books 'Ohio DUI/OVI Guide', 'Ohio Vehicular Homicide Guide', and 'Ohio Vehicular Assault Guide' (Rivers Edge Publishing) and wrote a chapter in the book 'Defending Vehicular Homicide Cases' (Aspatore Publishing, 2012). He has several other published articles, and he speaks regularly at seminars teaching other lawyers about DUI/OVI. Shawn was named by SuperLawyers® as one of the top 50 lawyers in Columbus, Ohio, and he is listed as one of the 'Best Lawyers in America'® for DUI Defense. Shawn is a lifelong resident of central Ohio: he graduated from Olentangy High School and earned his bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from The Ohio State University. His office is in Columbus, and he lives in Powell with his wife and daughter. He serves with local community organizations, volunteers regularly at his church, and plays regularly with his German Shepherd. For more information, Shawn’s website is, his blog is,

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