Proposed Legislation Could Mean Big Changes for the Workers’ Compensation System

Two pieces of legislation are making their way through the Ohio Statehouse and both could bring drastic changes to the workers’ compensation system.

House Bill 27

Typically, the workers’ compensation budget is part of a routine bill approved by the House and Senate. Not this year. House Bill 27, which contains the 2018-2019 workers’ compensation budget, was passed by the House in May and is now before the Senate for consideration. The bill contains some significant amendments that have created controversy. Among the proposed changes are:

  • The time for an injured worker to file a workers’ compensation claim has been reduced from two years from the date of injury to one year;
  • Prohibiting an illegal alien from receiving workers’ compensation benefits; and
  • Granting employers immunity for occupational injuries suffered by illegal aliens unless the worker can prove the employer knew the worker was not legally authorized to work in the United States when he or she was hired.

Ohio Rev. Code §4123.01(C) neither includes nor excludes “illegal aliens” from the definition of “employee.” Presently, an illegal alien is considered an “employee” who is entitled to compensation under the Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Fund. Rajeh v. Steel City Corp., (2004) 157 Ohio App. 3d 722.

As expected, the amendments regarding illegal aliens are highly controversial with a split along partisan lines. It remains to be seen whether the bill will be passed as written by the Senate.

House Bill 269

Not to be outdone, State Representative Mike Henne wants to get rid of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Well, at least in name.  House Bill 269, introduced on June 12, 2017, seeks to change the name of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to the Office of Worker Safety and Rehabilitation.  The bill also includes many other changes:

  • Establishes incentives for employers to participate in safety consultations and loss prevention programs;
  • An employee receiving temporary total disability compensation must comply with a return to work plan. A return to work plan must be written, including the goal of the employee returning to work, and the steps that can be taken to achieve that goal. If the employee does not comply with the plan, the administrator shall suspend the temporary total disability benefits until the employee complies;
  • Permanent total disability benefits end when the employee reaches the age of retirement; and
  • The bill alters death benefits by providing a lump sum of $35,000 to a dependent at the time of death, and dependents shall receive a scholarship of $5,000 a year for a maximum of four years to pay for college.

If you have any questions regarding House Bill 27 or House Bill 269, please contact 614.221.2121. We will continue to monitor and provide updates regarding both bills.