House Bill No. 81: Significant Changes to Ohio Workers’ Compensation Law
The Ohio House Bill No. 81, which became effective from September 15, 2020, made some remarkable changes to the Workers’ Compensation Law in Ohio. Even though the intent of the Bill, as stated in the Bill was to extend coverage to detention facility employees, it made certain important other changes that could benefit all Ohio employers. The most significant change made by the Bill is regarding the defense of voluntary abandonment, which was earlier primarily based on case laws rather than any statute. This article summarizes some of the important changes made by the House Bill No. 81.
- Expansion of coverage to post-exposure medical diagnostic services
Previously, the Workers’ Compensation Law required the Bureau of of Workers’ Compensation and self-insured public employers to pay for the cost of post-exposure testing services to find out if safety officers such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical workers who came in contact with another person’s blood or bodily fluids while performing the duties and functions of their job, sustained an injury or occupational disease. The new law extends this coverage to the employees including correction officers of self-insured detention facilities, requiring the self-insured facilities to pay for these services.
Further, the new law also extends the coverage to injury or occupational disease through exposure to a drug or other chemical substance and requires the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, self-insured public employers and self-insured detention facilities to pay for the cost of the post-exposure testing in such cases.
- Codification of the law on voluntary abandonment
The new law specifically states that it is intended “to supersede any previous judicial decision that applied the doctrine of voluntary abandonment to a claim [for temporary total disability compensation].” It states, “if an employee is not working or has suffered a wage loss as the direct result of reasons unrelated to the allowed injury or occupational disease, the employee is not eligible to receive compensation.” Thus, if the employee cannot work due to reasons unrelated to the injury, the employee will not be entitled to receive temporary total disability compensation. The new law eliminates the court created exceptions to the doctrine of voluntary abandonment and will apply to claims pending on or made after September 15, 2020.
- Reduction of time-limit for Violation of Specific Safety Requirements (VSSRs)
Previously, injured workers had a time period of two years from the date of the injury or death or the beginning of the disability due to an occupational disease to file a VSSR claim. The new law states that employees who want to file a claim for an injury or occupational disease under the VSSR, will have to file their claim “within one year after the date of the injury or death or within one year after the disability due to the occupational disease began.” Thus, the new law reduces the Statute of Limitations for a VSSR claim from two years to one year. This brings the time limit for a VSSR claim in line with the time limit for filing a work related injury claim.
- Limiting the employer’s right to contest a State-fund settlement
The new law adds a new sub-section which prevents an employer from denying or withdrawing consent to a settlement application if the claim falls outside the employer’s experience for impacting its future premiums and if the employee no longer works for the employer. This will help employees to move smoothly through a final claim settlement even when their employer doesn’t want to participate.
- Shortening the life of a Claim
The new law can potentially shorten the life of certain workers’ compensation claims. Previously, the law stated, that a claim will expire after five years “the date of the last payment of compensation.” The judicial interpretation of “payment of compensation” included in it payment of medical benefits also and thus, even if no compensation was paid in a claim for five years, the payment of medical bills prevented the claim from expiring. The new law limits the claim’s expiry to five years from the date of last medical services rendered or the date of last payment of compensation. Thus, if there is no payment of compensation, the five years will be counted from when the medical service was rendered rather than when it was paid for.
- Other changes
The new law also introduces some other changes such:
- Changing the funeral expenses cap from $5,000 to $7,500.
- Changing the time to appeal an Industrial Commission Order from 60 to 150 days.
For more information on the Ohio House Bill No. 81 see: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA133-HB-81