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Becca helps employers proactively manage their workforce issues to help them reduce their risk and improve the productivity of their workforce. She focuses her practice on defending and managing workers’ compensation claims, including allegations of violations of specific safety rules and permanent total disability claims.

Ohio law has long held that an employee’s particular health conditions, personal frailties and peculiar susceptibilities do not prohibit the employee from having a compensable work injury when the injury occurred in the course of and arising out of the employee’s employment. Ohio courts do not deny an employee a compensable claim merely because the employee’s physical fitness at the time of the work incident rendered him more susceptible to the injury than an otherwise healthy individual.

Recently, an Ohio employer questioned the compensability of a workers’ compensation claim when an employee with pre-existing arthritis suffered a subsequent work-related injury. In Luettke v. Autoneum N. Am., Inc.,, the Sixth Appellate District found the injured worker sustained a compensable injury. In October 2006, Ruth Luettke (“Luettke”) fractured her left leg in a work-related fall. An MRI of her left knee demonstrated osteoarthritis. Thereafter, Luettke complained of occasional pain, but continued to work full duty. In August 2012, Luettke alleged that while holding a pry bar to open a dock plate, she put her weight on her left foot, turned and felt a snap in her left knee.  She sought to have a workers’ compensation claim recognized for the conditions of sprain of the left knee and tear of her quad tendon.   Both Luettke’s physician and the employer’s examining physician opined that Luettke suffered from pre-existing arthritis and that Luettke’s injury would not have occurred in an otherwise healthy individual. The Industrial Commission recognized the claim and the employer appealed to court.

Continue Reading Employers must take their employees as they are – pre-existing conditions included

Caitlyn Jenner has dominated the national public interest stories and social media of late. However sensational the news has made this particular story, the issues surrounding transgender individuals are increasingly impacting employers.

Recently, the Eastern District of Michigan permitted one of the first sex-discrimination cases over a transgender employee’s firing to proceed. The Court refused to dismiss the case despite the fact that transgender persons are not a protected class under Title VII, finding instead that transgender employees are like other employees who are permitted to sue their employers over sex stereotypes. The Eastern District of Michigan is part of the Sixth Circuit and should this case proceed to the Sixth Circuit upon appeal, its decision would be binding upon Ohio employers as well as Michigan employers.

In EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc, the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, Amiee Stephens, a transgender woman, had been employed with R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. in Michigan since October 2007 as a Funeral Director. She was hired and proceeded to work identifying as a male employee. On July 31, 2013, Stephens informed her employer and co-workers in a letter that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female and would begin dressing in appropriate female business attire at the workplace.  According to the Complaint, on August 15, 2013, her employer fired her, telling her that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.

On behalf of Stephens, the EEOC brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Funeral Home, asserting the that the Funeral Home’s decision to fire Stephens was motivated by sex-based considerations and violated Title VII. Specifically, the Complaint alleged that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because of Stephens’ transition from male to female and/or because Stephens did not conform to the Funeral Home’s sex or gender based preferences, expectations or stereotypes. The key allegation was that the termination was based on gender stereotypes. The EEOC also alleged that the Funeral Home engaged in an unlawful employment practice in violation of Title VII by providing a clothing allowance to male employees and failing to provide a similar allowance to female employees because of their sex.
Continue Reading Transgender status may not be a protected class, but lawsuits involving transgender employees are permitted to proceed

Ohio Senators have introduced a bill to change Ohio workers’ compensation laws to permit claimants who are peace officers, firefighters or emergency medical personnel diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

Presently, Ohio law only recognizes claims for psychological conditions if the psychological condition arises out of an injury or occupational

In State ex rel. Hildebrand v. Wingate Transp., Inc., the Ohio Supreme Court  recently ruled that an employee who quit his job for reasons unrelated to his work injury was barred from receiving temporary total disability compensation.

Brian Hildebrand, a mechanic with Wingate Transport, Inc. injured his back on June 3, 2009. On June

Based on a constitutional amendment in 2006, every year Ohio’s minimum wage is increased based on considerations such as cost of living. As of January 1, 2015, Ohio’s minimum wage raised to $8.10. However, this rate increase is not considered sufficient by some State Senators. All 10 members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus co-sponsored

A divided Montgomery County Court of Appeals has determined that the Ohio minimum wage statute unconstitutionally restricted the definition of “employee” in the Ohio constitution and declared the law invalid, thereby eliminating exemptions to Ohio’s minimum wage laws.

John Haight and Christopher Pence were employed as advertising salespeople for Cheap Escape Company dba JB Dollar

As we have explained before, one of an employer’s main defenses in a workers’ compensation claim is that the employee’s own actions – rather than the work-related injuries — have led to the employee being off work. The Ohio Supreme Court recently revisited the analysis of when an employee’s actions constitute a voluntary abandonment of employment thereby precluding receipt of temporary total disability compensation.

In State ex. rel. Robinson v. Indus. Comm., Parma Care Nursing and Rehabilitation hired Shelby Robinson in 1995, and at that time, provided her with a written job description that established her job duties and responsibilities. Further, Parma Care provided her with a copy of an employee handbook detailing Parma Care’s policies and procedures. Over the years, Parma Care disciplined Robinson for violating work rules. In a written warning on February 29, 2008, Robinson acknowledged that she had been warned that any future violations would result in her termination from employment.

On April 10, 2008, Robinson was injured at work and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was recognized for multiple low back conditions. As a result, she returned to work in a light duty capacity. On April 15, 2008, a state surveyor reported to Parma Care that Robinson had violated state rules. Based on this infraction, Parma Care terminated Robinson’s employment.

Subsequently, Robinson’s physician certified that Robinson was temporarily and totally disabled from all employment beginning on the date of her injury. The Industrial Commission determined that Robinson’s termination amounted to a voluntary abandonment of her employment and she therefore was ineligible for temporary total compensation. Robinson appealed and the Court of Appeals upheld the Industrial Commission’s decision. Robinson appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision and held that Robinson voluntarily abandoned her employment as a result of her termination for violating a written work rule and was not entitled to receive temporary total disability compensation. 
Continue Reading Detailed, written job descriptions are vital to employer’s defense in workers’ compensation claim

As we have previously discussed, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has traditionally taken an aggressive position in finding that a business purchasing all or part of another business is responsible for the predecessor entity’s workers’ compensation risk, frequently resulting in an increase in premiums and penalties for the purchasing entity.
Continue Reading Ohio Supreme Court Again Reins In BWC On Successor Liability