On March 25, 2013, the Twelfth District Court of Appeals of Ohio decided the case of Margello v. Parachute & Special Advocates for Children, 2013-Ohio-1106. Jean M. Margello applied for workers’ compensation benefits after she claimed she sustained injuries in a fall while visiting a client’s home as a volunteer court-appointed special advocate. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) denied Ms. Margello benefits. She appealed to the Butler County Common Pleas Court, was denied again, and then further appealed.
In its review, the appeals court focused on the statutory definition of an “employee” under Ohio R.C. 4123.01 in regards to the facts of this case. Ms. Margello was a volunteer who argued that she was an “employee” eligible for benefits because “the organization received value from her volunteer services and exerted substantial control over its volunteers.” The appeals court, however, rejected that argument and held that Ms. Margello did not qualify as an “employee” for the purposes of workers’ compensation, as she received no compensation or benefits for her volunteer services. The court also focused on rulings in prior cases that “a determining factor in establishing whether an employee-employer relationship exists is a contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written.” Here, there was no obligation for Ms. Margello to be paid, and thus no contract for hire existed. The court also noted that she did not receive free services in exchange for the work that she performed. If she had, the appeals court hinted that this might have been a compensable claim.