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Supreme Court of Ohio: Firing worker with an industrial injury who hasn’t yet filed a workers’ compensation claim may still be workers’ compensation retaliation

Gavel-Wikimedia Commons.bmpOn Thursday, June 9th, Ohio’s Supreme Court held that an employee, who is terminated after sustaining a work-related injury, though prior to filing a workers’ compensation claim, may still pursue a workers’ compensation retaliation claim against his former employer. This case arose as Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Statute, when read in conjunction with Ohio’s applicable case law, left a gap in coverage for employees who sustained an industrial injury, but were terminated prior to filing a workers’ compensation claim. The Court filled this gap with what it called “a common-law tort claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy”. Thus, the Court attached the right to pursue a workers’ compensation retaliation claim to the work-related injury and not the filing of the workers’ compensation claim.

Fortunately, though this case broadened the application of Ohio’s workers’ compensation retaliation protections, the Court limited any recovery under such claim to those remedies provided in Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Statute:

…relief may be granted shall be limited to reinstatement with back pay, if the action is based upon discharge, or an award for wages lost if based upon demotion, reassignment, or punitive action taken, offset by earnings subsequent to discharge, demotion, reassignment, or punitive action taken, and payments received pursuant to section 4123.56 and Chapter 4141 of the Revised Code plus reasonable attorney fees.

Employers should be mindful of this when terminating an employee who it knows sustained a work-related injury, irrespective of whether a workers’ compensation claim has been filed.