Ohio House Bill 447 to Impact Workers’ Compensation and Employees Working from Home

Labor & Employment @lert

Date: June 29, 2022

On June 24, 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law House Bill 447 (“H.B. 447”), bringing a long-anticipated amendment to Ohio’s law regarding eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits when an employee sustains an injury when working for his/her employer in the employee’s home.[1] As provided in Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C), and subject to certain exceptions, an employee’s injury is compensable in the workers’ compensation system in Ohio when that injury was received in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee's employment. Prior to this enactment of H.B. 447, Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C) provided four exclusions for injuries that might otherwise be compensable under workers’ compensation when sustained in the course of, and arising out of, the employee’s employment namely:

  1. Psychiatric conditions except when the claimant's psychiatric conditions have arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant or when the claimant's psychiatric conditions have arisen from sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate;
  2. Injury or disability caused primarily by the natural deterioration of tissue, an organ, or part of the body;
  3. Injury or disability incurred in voluntary participation in an employer-sponsored recreation or fitness activity if the employee signs a waiver of the employee's right to compensation or benefits under this chapter prior to engaging in the recreation or fitness activity;
  4. A condition that pre-existed an injury unless that pre-existing condition is substantially aggravated by the injury. Such a substantial aggravation must be documented by objective diagnostic findings, objective clinical findings, or objective test results. Subjective complaints may be evidence of such a substantial aggravation. However, subjective complaints without objective diagnostic findings, objective clinical findings, or objective test results are insufficient to substantiate a substantial aggravation.

H.B. 447 amends Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C) to provide a fifth exclusion to the definition of “injury” for an “[i]njury or disability sustained by an employee who performs the employee's duties in a work area that is located within the employee's home and that is separate and distinct from the location of the employer[.]” H.B. 447 does permit, however, an injury or disability sustained at home to be compensable under workers’ compensation if all of the following apply:

  1. The employee's injury or disability arises out of the employee's employment;
  2. The employee's injury or disability was caused by a special hazard of the employee's employment activity; and
  3. The employee's injury or disability is sustained in the course of an activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer.

Prior to the enactment of H.B. 447, an injury sustained in the course of, and arising out of one’s employment when working at one’s home was treated in the same way, from a workers’ compensation compensability context, as an injury sustained at the employer’s workplace. H.B. 447 limits the compensability under workers’ compensation for work-from-home injuries. For instance, while the standard definition for “injury” under the statute requires the injury to occur “in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment,” the work-from-home-injury will only meet the statutory definition of an “injury” if it occurred “in the course of activity undertaken by the employee for the exclusive benefit of the employer” and was caused by a “special hazard” of the employee’s employment activity. This requirement will present a difficult hurdle for an employee to overcome when seeking workers’ compensation benefits for an injury sustained when working at his/her home.

The types of injuries that will ultimately be compensable in the context of workers’ compensation in Ohio for an employee when working at home are unclear, and the determination will likely be very fact-specific. As such, employers should ensure that they have implemented policies for job expectations and requirements for employees working remotely and have processes in place for reporting and investigating injuries sustained by employees working remotely from home or other locations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information, please contact:

Nancy M. Barnes
216.566.5578
Nancy.Barnes@ThompsonHine.com

Scott Young
513.352.6617
Scott.Young@ThompsonHine.com

Bret W. Vetter
513.352.6502
Bret.Vetter@ThompsonHine.com

or any other member of our Labor & Employment group.

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