Photo of Rebecca Kopp Levine

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.

The Ohio Supreme Court has definitively decided that an employee cannot unilaterally dismiss an employer-initiated appeal in a workers’ compensation case; rather, the employer must consent to the dismissal.

After a workers’ compensation claim proceeds administratively before the Industrial Commission, any party may appeal the Commission’s decision to permit the employee to participate in the workers’ compensation system to the Court of Common Pleas. After an appeal is filed, the employee must file a petition/complaint within 30 days.

Regardless of which party files the appeal, the employee is the plaintiff in the workers’ compensation case. While the court case is proceeding on an employer-initiated appeal, the employee continues to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, should the court reverse the Industrial Commission’s decision and deny the claim, the employer receives a refund of costs previously paid to the employee.
Continue Reading Workers’ compensation law aiming to reduce appeal time is constitutional

Recently, Gov. Kasich signed into law the workers’ compensation budget. In addition to funding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), the bill enacted a number of substantive changes to the law. These changes are effective Sept. 29, 2017. Below are some of the significant amendments impacting Ohio employers:

  • Decreases statute of limitations: For claims

In its recent decision, Clendenin v. Girl Scouts of W. Ohio, the Supreme Court of Ohio definitively decided that an Industrial Commission order determining that a pre-existing condition that was substantially aggravated by a work-related incident has returned to the pre-injury level is an issue that may not be appealed to a court of common pleas.

While working for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, Audrey Clendenin (Clendenin) was injured on Oct. 21, 2008. Her claim was recognized for multiple right shoulder conditions as well as substantial aggravation of pre-existing dermatomyositis, a rare inflammatory disease. In March 2013, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) filed a motion to abate the claim for the substantial aggravation condition. The Industrial Commission granted the motion, finding that compensation and medical benefits were no longer to be paid in the claim for the allowed substantial aggravation condition.

Continue Reading Some clarity: The Supreme Court of Ohio definitively decides procedure for abatement of substantial aggravation conditions

A recent case highlights the intersection of FMLA and workers’ compensation laws. Angela Samuel (Samuel) was employed by Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. (Progressive) as a retention specialist and primarily worked out of her home. While on a leave of absence covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Progressive notified Samuel that she needed to submit documentation in support of her FMLA request. Previously, Samuel’s documents in support of her FMLA leave were either never received or misplaced by Progressive.

On a Sunday evening, Samuel hand-delivered the paperwork to an unattended reception desk outside of a human resources department at a building on Progressive’s campus. As she was leaving, she slipped in a stairway and fell onto her right side.

Continue Reading Sunday deliveries of FMLA paperwork: A recipe for disaster

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