Workers' Compensation began as a system of compromise. Injured workers gave up their right to sue if they were injured on the job. In exchange, they gained the right to file for compensation for medical bills and lost earnings through a system of workers' compensation. Likewise, employers gave up many legal defenses (including fault). In return, the employer is protected from unpredictable jury verdicts.
The Ohio Supreme Court is slowly eroding the basis for this bargain by injecting fault into workers' compensation proceedings. The latest example is contained in State ex rel. Robinson v. Indus. Comm. In Robinson, the injured worker -- a nurse -- sustained a back injury. Five days later -- while working on light duty -- the nursing home where she worked fired her for incorrectly documenting a dietary change order and failing to check a resident's feeding tube.
Robinson then sought disability for her injury -- she was, after all, on light duty at the time of termination. The Industrial Commission denied her request and found that she had abandoned the work-force by knowingly and willingly violating a company rule.
Here, the employer may have a valid reason to fire its' employee. Nevertheless, all employees -- both good and bad -- should be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Industrial Commission hearings should not become the place for deciding whether an injured worker was fired for good reason.
Eligibility for workers compensation and the quality of job performance are separate and distinct issues.