« Back Labor E-Bulletin - Ohio Worker's Compensation Reform Legislation Changes Become Effective Due to Failure of Referendum Petition

November 13, 2006

As we noted in an earlier e-bulletin, Ohio voters approved two significant measures -- Issues 2 and 5 -- which become effective December 7. Issue 5, among other things, requires workplaces in Ohio to be nonsmoking and that specified “no smoking” signs be posted by Ohio employers. Issue 2 raises the Ohio minimum wage to $6.85 on January 1, indexes it for inflation, imposes recordkeeping and disclosure requirements, and creates new remedies and penalties for violations.

Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot, however, turned out to be a nullity. Issue 1 was to be a referendum on Workers’ Compensation reform -- Ohio Senate Bill 7 -- passed earlier in the year by the Ohio General Assembly. But supporters of Issue 1 failed to secure the required number of valid signatures needed to have selected provisions of the bill properly on the ballot.

So, Senate Bill 7 is now Ohio law. All claims arising after June 30, 2006, are subject to it.

Changes include:

  • Limiting wage loss compensation eligibility to 226 weeks and reducing the number of weeks that an injured worker is entitled to receive non-working wage loss compensation to 52 weeks.
  • Imposing a higher evidentiary threshold for an injured worker when pursuing a claim for aggravation of a pre-existing condition. Employees must prove that a pre-existing condition was “substantially aggravated” and objective evidence must be presented, not merely subjective complaints of increased pain. If an aggravation is proven, medical benefits will be limited solely to the time period needed to return the injured worker’s condition to its pre-injury status.
  • Reducing the Industrial Commission’s continuing jurisdiction in medical claims to five years from the injury date, and lost time claims to five years from the date of last compensation paid. Currently, a medical only claim has a statutory life of 6 years from the injury date, while a lost time claim has a statutory life of 10 years from the last payment of compensation.
  • Entitlement to statutory permanent and total disability compensation is curtailed as the new law provides that a loss of one limb does not constitute the loss of two body parts. Also, the rate at which PTD benefits are paid will be based entirely upon the injury date and no recalculation will be permitted.
  • The definition of “injury” now excludes psychiatric conditions arising from a compensable injury or occupational disease sustained by another employee. The definition is expanded for victims of rape or sexual assault.
  • Eliminates the ability of an injured worker to voluntarily dismiss an employer’s appeal unless agreed to by the employer. This provision allows the employer’s attorney to control the litigation when employers file court appeals in disputed matters.

In addition, self-insured employers may opt out of surplus fund reimbursement, resulting in no assessments and reduced premiums.

Senate Bill 7 will be covered in our pending seminars in Cleveland on December 7 and Cincinnati on December 8.

The links below are invitations to these seminars.

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