Friday, July 22, 2016

Workers' Compensation Retaliation Claim Does Not Require Proof Of A Workplace Injury

Following his termination Michael Onderko sued his former employer, Sierra Lobo, Inc. for workers' compensation retaliatory discharge under Ohio Revised Code 4123.90. The employer argued that Onderko's injury did not happen at work and that it terminated him for his “deceptive” attempt to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court threw out the claim because Onderko failed to prove his injury occurred at work. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the court of appeals' reversal. The law in Ohio is now clear that retaliatory discharge under section 4123.90 does not require a showing that the plaintiff suffered a workplace injury. The court further held that a failure to appeal the denial of a workers’ compensation claim does not preclude a retaliatory discharge claim under section 4123.90.

The decision makes sense. The gravamen of a workers' compensation retaliatory discharge claim is retribution for the filing of a claim. The employee's entitlement to workers' compensation benefits is irrelevant. What matters is the employer's motivation for the discharge. Thus, the employer who decides to terminate an employee because of a workers' compensation filing is liable under section 4123.90, regardless of the employee's entitlement to benefits under the workers' compensation system.

You can read the Ohio Supreme Court's decision here:  Onderko v. Sierra Lobo, Inc., 2016-Ohio-5027 (July 21, 2016).