July 2022: New Ohio Bill Impacts Workers’ Compensation and Employees Working from Home

21 Jul

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Update Applicable to:
All employers with employees working from home in the state of Ohio.

What happened?
On June 24, 2022, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 447 (HB 447) into law, which amends 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.

What are the details?
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 HB 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;
  1. Injury or disability caused primarily by the natural deterioration of tissue, an organ, or part of the body;
  1. 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;
  1. 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, clinical, or test results. Subjective complaints may be evidence of such a substantial aggravation. However, subjective complaints without objective diagnostic findings, clinical findings, or objective test results are insufficient to substantiate a substantial aggravation.

HB 447 amends Ohio Revised Code §4123.01(C) to provide a fifth exclusion to the definition of “injury” for an “injury 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[.]”

HB 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 HB 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. HB 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.

The types of injuries that will ultimately be compensable in the context of workers’ compensation in Ohio for an employee working at home are unclear, and the determination will likely be very fact-specific.

This law went into effect immediately.

For more information, please see the links below:

House Bill 447 (HB 447)

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and, per the advice from the law firm Thompson Hine, “ensure 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.”

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