Ohio is an at-will employment state. This means that employment can be terminated at any time and for any reason. However, workers’ compensation benefits are a notable exception to this rule.
The law does not permit your employer to fire you or take disciplinary action against you for making a workers’ compensation claim, even if you’ve been hurt more than once or your accident was caused by your own carelessness or inexperience. This is outlined in Ohio Revised Code § 4123.90, which states that no employer may take punitive action against an employee who filed a workers’ compensation claim or instituted, pursued, or testified in any proceedings under the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Act. Sometimes, you may hear this referred to as a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine.
Examples of Retaliation
The following behaviors can potentially constitute illegal retaliation:
- Termination of employment
- Passing you up for a promotion
- Demoting you
- Decreasing your wages or remaining access to employee benefits
- Reassigning you to a less desirable department or position
- Reducing your hours
- Giving you poor performance reviews for reasons not related to your job performance
- Making verbal threats or engaging in a pattern of harassment
Please note that these behaviors are only considered retaliation if they occur because of your work injury. Changes made due to a genuine reduction in employer staffing needs are not considered retaliation, even if they occur after your workers’ compensation claim. Changes that are made as a result of performance issues that were present before you were injured or a violation of an established company policy are also permissible.
Protecting Your Rights
Workers who face retaliation for filing an Ohio workers’ comp claim are entitled to reinstatement with back pay or wages lost, as well as compensation for associated attorney fees. If you believe your employer is retaliating against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you have 90 days to notify your employer of the violation and 180 days to file a claim for damages. If you miss these deadlines, the court can legally dismiss your claim regardless of the evidence you provide.
To protect your rights under Ohio law, you should see the assistance of an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits while pursuing all applicable legal remedies related to the retaliation.
Evidence supporting your claim of retaliation may include:
- Your own notes indicating how you were treated before and after your injury
- Statements from coworkers
- Documentation of company policies
- Copies of performance reviews
- Official notices of termination, reduction of hours, or other adverse employment actions
If your work injury has left you with a permanent disability, you should provide information about what accommodations you requested at work and how your employer responded. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer is legally obligated to make reasonable accommodations such as a modified work schedule or assistive equipment in the workstation.
Getting Benefits if You No Longer Have a Job to Return to
In some cases, you may still be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits after you were terminated by your employer. If you were cleared to return to work with no restrictions on the duties you could perform, and your employer has eliminated your position, you are no longer eligible for temporary total disability benefits. However, you may be able to receive wage loss benefits if you’ve been released to modified or light duty work but no longer have a position to return to.
If you receive unemployment insurance benefits while your workers’ compensation claim is pending, you may be required to reimburse the state after your workers’ compensation is approved. Your attorney can provide additional information about your repayment obligations.
Would You Like to Speak to an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
At Justice Law Firm, we believe employers who fail to comply with state laws regarding workers’ compensation benefits should be held accountable for their actions. If you’re having trouble getting your workers’ comp claim approved or believe your employer is retaliating against you for seeking benefits, we’re here to help. Call our office at 614-543-1320, or complete our online contact form at any time.