Recently, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 81 which contains several changes to workers’ compensation laws. Most significantly, the bill contains a provision that will codify the common law voluntary abandonment doctrine. This provision should ensure that injured workers do not receive certain disability benefits if their loss of income is not related to the allowed conditions in a claim. Significantly, this codification specifically supersedes any court opinions applying the well-known doctrine.
Continue Reading What changes are coming to the well-known Ohio workers’ compensation voluntary abandonment doctrine?

As Ohio attempts to move forward during this pandemic, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is doing the same. For example, the BWC has resumed the scheduling of medical exams where necessary, is using alternative methods such as file reviews when possible, and has provided guidance on telemedicine resources to assist with the continuation of benefits to injured workers. The BWC is also making efforts to ease the economic impacts to businesses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some highlights that employers, both self-insured and state-funded, should be aware of during this unprecedented time.
Continue Reading Ohio BWC pandemic-related developments

Presently there are many uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. It is certainly possible employees will allege they contracted coronavirus while at work. Given that the United States has not experienced a pandemic in a significant period of time, this is a gray area for employers. Most states do not have specific legislation addressing this situation.

In general, any illness, injury or occupational disease could be a compensable claim if it arises out of the course and scope of the employee’s employment. The difficulty is that it is likely impossible to determine with certainty as to where the employee contracted the disease. Workplaces with significant public contact may see a rise in such claim applications.
Continue Reading Workers’ compensation implications of COVID-19 in the workplace

On Sept. 27, 2018,the Ohio Supreme Court took the unusual step of overturning two prior decisions in an attempt to clarify a confusing aspect of workers’ compensation law. A long-standing tenet of workers’ compensation law, temporary total disability compensation, is intended to compensate an injured worker when they are unable to work due to a work-related injury. To be entitled to temporary total disability compensation, an injured worker must be medically unable to work and the inability to work must be caused by the work injury.

One exception to this rule, and a defense routinely used by employers, is the voluntary abandonment of employment doctrine. In essence, when relying on this defense, the employer argues the injured worker’s own actions caused his or her loss of compensation rather than the work incident and therefore they would not be entitled to compensation. Previously, the Supreme Court limited the scope of this defense by holding that if an injured worker was disabled due to the work injury at the time of the separation of employment, the injured worker remained entitled to temporary total disability compensation.
Continue Reading Voluntary abandonment doctrine strengthened by Ohio Supreme Court

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 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

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