Employment Discharge For Violating Work Rule Prevents Lost Time Comp In Ohio Workers Compensation Case

by Dean Pavick on March 15, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court recently handed down another decision which can deny payment of temporary total compensation to Ohio injured workers.

In Robinson, State ex rel. v. Indus. Comm.(2014) the Court held that the employer’s termination of the injured worker’s employment for violating a written work rule prohibited the payment of temporary total compensation for the allowed low back injury. In Robinson, the claimant was employed as an LPN. The employer gave the injured worker a written employee handbook at the time of hiring along with a written job description and job responsibilities.

Twenty three years after her hiring, the employee was disciplined for  2 written work violations within a short time. She was forced to sign an acknowledgment form after the second infraction that a 3rd violation would result in termination. Two months later, the employee suffered a serious low back work injury which included 2 herniated discs. The employer accommodated the employee’s work restrictions for light duty work. Within a week after the work injury, the employer claimed that the employee had violated 2 more written work rules and sent a letter to the injured employee terminating her employment. At the same time, the treating doctor took the claimant completely off work for her allowed low back conditions.

The Court held that the employee’s discharge from employment for violation of written work rules constituted a voluntary abandonment of employment by the employee so as to preclude the injured worker from being paid temporary total compensation. In his dissent, Justice O’Neill noted that the Ohio workers compensation system is a no-fault system and that work performance and the constitutional right to be compensated for workplace injuries are two totally separate and unrelated topics. He further observed that “voluntary abandonment of employment” is a relatively new and unprecedented judicially made doctrine which was ” eroding Ohio’s constitutionally guaranteed no fault system”. In other words, the ultraconservative court has been engaging in judicial activism which further shifts the balance of the Ohio workers compensation program toward big companies and employers at the expense of injured workers.

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