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Ohio Workers’ Comp Case Clarifies “Good Faith Job Offer”

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Expert analysis from the Reminger firm.

Guest Post by Danielle Lorenz, Esq.

Under Ohio’s workers’ compensation system, employers can limit claim costs, and specifically temporary total disability (“TTD”), by offering an injured worker light duty within his/her restrictions. Further, if the injured worker refuses this good faith job offer, the injured worker can be denied TTD.

However, for the employer to prevail and have TTD denied, it must show the refused job offer was (1) made in good faith, (2) within the injured worker’s physical capabilities, and (3) within a reasonable proximity of the injured worker’s residence. OAC 4123-3-32(A)(3).

When you have professional liability insurance coverage through Alta Pro Insurance, you’ll have the claims repair and legal defense experts of Reminger Law on your side. Want to have a resource like that in your practice? Here’s how to get it.

State ex rel. Ryan Alternative Staffing, Inc., v. Moss

Recently, in State ex rel. Ryan Alternative Staffing, Inc., v. Moss, the Ohio Supreme Court clarified the element of good faith is based solely on the employer’s good faith in making the job offer, and not the injured worker’s good faith in rejecting the offer.

At issue in Ryan, was whether the injured worker was entitled to TTD after refusing a light duty job offer made by the employer. The employer in Ryan, a staffing agency, made a job offer of light duty employment to the injured worker, but the injured worker refused it because it conflicted with her family childcare obligations. The injured worker’s regular shift was second shift, but her offer of light duty employment was during her first shift.  Her “good faith” reasoning for declining the offer of light duty was based on her obligation to watch her grandkids. The employer rejected the injured worker’s request for TTD benefits and the injured worker filed a motion.

At the administrative level, both the District Hearing Officer (“DHO”) and the Staff Hearing Officer (“SHO”) found the employer made the job offer in good faith. The DHO denied TTD. However, the SHO reversed the decision and awarded TTD. The SHO determined that although the employer made the offer of light duty employment in good faith, the injured worker also refused the job offer in good faith.  The employer filed an action in mandamus. The 10th District Court of Appeals granted the writ and ordered that the matter be returned to Industrial Commission (“IC”) and TTD compensation be denied. The IC appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

On appeal, the Ohio Supreme Court held an injured worker’s good faith refusal of a job offer does not entitle the injured worker to TTD.  The Court specifically held “nothing . . . permits an injured worker to receive TTD compensation after refusing a good-faith offer of suitable alternative employment, even if the injured worker exercised good faith in refusing the offer.”  This analysis remains true so long as the employer made the job offer in good faith. Because the IC is the exclusive evaluator of the weight and credibility of the facts of a claim, the Supreme Court of Ohio returned the claim to the IC to determine whether the employer made the job offer in good faith.

This decision is favorable to Ohio employers because a good faith job offer is a defense to TTD benefits. It matters not whether the injured worker acted in good faith in rejecting the offer of light duty employment, as the analysis remains whether the employer acted in good faith when extending the offer. However, to defend its decision to deny TTD, the employer should ensure the original offer of light duty employment was made in good faith.

Should you have any questions regarding this decision, light duty job offers, or workers’ compensation in general, please do not hesitate to contact one of the attorneys in Reminger’s Workers’ Compensation Practice Group.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Reminger’s Cincinnati office, Danielle Lorenz focuses her practice on workers’ compensation, commercial real estate, general business law, and creditors’ rights. She regularly represents both state funded and self insured employers at administrative hearings and upon appeal to court. Danielle is licensed to practice in both the states of Ohio and Indiana.

If you practice in Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, you can stay on top of ethics and risk management news by being a member of Alta Pro Lawyers RPG. You’ll get access to free webinars, the Pro Practice Playbook, Reminger ProLink, Ask the Risk Pro and more. Here’s how to join.

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