108,549 workers filed claims with Ohio BWC in 2014. Of those, 10,977 were dismissed or disallowed by BWC. In a recent lawsuit, an Ohio employer argues for the right to fire any employee whose claim is denied.
In Onderko v. Sierra Lobo, Inc. the injured worker failed to mention the work related nature of his knee injury at the emergency room. His family physician – who refused to accept BWC – also did not record a work related component to his injury. He filed a claim and attended a hearing where his employer was represented by counsel. A few days later he received an order denying his claim. He dropped the matter since his knee was doing better and he had returned to work.
That, unfortunately, was not the end of it. His employer fired him a few days after the deadline for filing an appeal had expired. The stated justification -- his filing of a “deceptive” claim for workers compensation benefits.
Ohio Law states: “[n]o employer shall discharge, demote, reassign, or take any punitive action against any employee because the employee filed a claim or instituted, pursued, or testified in any proceedings under the workers compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer.” Clear right? Guess again.
In this case the employer argues that this section applies only when an injured workers’ claim is ultimately allowed. I have been asked to assist the Ohio Association for Justice by filing a friend of the court or “amicus” brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in support of the injured worker. Click Here for a copy of the brief.
Keep watching this space for updates when the Ohio Supreme Court weighs in.