The Ohio Supreme Court delivered an important, unanimous affirmation of the "voluntary abandonment" doctrine in favor of Ohio employers in general, and a Calfee client in particular, in State, ex rel. Galligan v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1/6/10). The "voluntary abandonment" doctrine holds that a claimant is not entitled to temporary total (TT) disability compensation for injury-induced absence from a job if the claimant has "voluntarily abandoned" such job. The Galligan decision comes after a rash of otherwise claimant-friendly decisions in voluntary abandonment cases.
Claimant Betty Galligan was employed as a security guard. She sustained work-related injuries stemming from a "trip and fall." The Employer returned her to work in a light-duty capacity. Galligan then amassed numerous violations of various rules as set forth in the employee handbook, and she was ultimately fired after being found sleeping at her post. Following her termination, she filed for TT benefits. At the Industrial Commission, Galligan argued that one cannot voluntarily abandon a light duty job, and that, in any event, it was her medication prescribed as a result of the industrial injury that led to the sleeping infraction that, in turn, was the immediate cause of the termination. Accordingly, the "sleeping at one's post" infraction could not be held against her. The Commission, however, found that Galligan "voluntarily abandoned" her employment for violating a written work rule: (1) with clearly defined prohibited conduct; (2) that had been previously identified by the Employer as a dischargeable offense, and (3) that was known or should have been known to the employee. TT was thus denied.
Galligan appealed the decision to the Franklin County Court of Appeals. That Court overturned the Industrial Commission's decision on the technicality that, as the entire employee handbook had not been filed with the Industrial Commission (as opposed to the relevant portions as found in the numerous individual disciplinary write-ups), the Commission order finding a "voluntary abandonment" was an abuse of discretion and TT was ordered to be paid on a two year retroactive basis.
The Ohio Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the decision of the Industrial Commission. The Ohio Supreme Court found that employment discharge can be considered a voluntary abandonment if it originates from behavior that the Claimant willingly undertook. This rule arises from the principal that an individual may presume to tacitly accept the consequences of his voluntary acts. Hence, Galligan's voluntary abandonment of her light-duty employment barred her from receipt of TT benefits.
This Supreme Court decision is important to employers as the correct use of the voluntary abandonment doctrine can hold an otherwise expensive claim to being merely a "medical only" claim. Ohio Common Pleas: C-112 agreements
Calfee successfully represented a trucking company challenging an Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Adjudicating Committee finding that its use of "C-112 Agreements" (providing that its drivers workers' compensation coverage was through the State of Indiana) was invalid in State, ex rel. G.D. Leasing of Indiana, Inc., v. Marsha P. Ryan, Administrator. Significant back and future premium dollars were at stake. The BWC had ordered that all driver payroll for Ohio residents who were directed out of an Ohio terminal be reported to BWC, notwithstanding the existence of the C-112 agreements. The court vacated the BWC's order and ruled that the BWC's position was simply not consistent with the governing law.
BWC Adjudicating Committee: Independent contractor agreements In a somewhat rare pro-employer decision, the BWC Adjudicating Committee reversed the finding of BWC Auditing and Underwriting that all independent delivery drivers of a local courier service and Calfee client were, in fact, employees. Over a million dollars in alleged unpaid premiums (not to mention future premiums) were at stake, as was the very essence of the business. The case is also important as it demonstrates that, with proper presentation, independent contractor arrangements can be upheld by reviewing agencies (whether it be BWC, Industrial Commission, Unemployment Compensation, etc.).