Labor and Employment Alert

    View Author December 2007
    On December 20, 2007 the Ohio Supreme Court refused to recognize a public policy cause of action for wrongful termination by an employee who is discharged while receiving workers' compensation benefits. Instead, in Bickers v. Western & Southern Life Ins. Co., the Court held that Ohio Revised Code §4123.90 provides the exclusive wrongful termination remedy for an employee who is discharged while receiving workers' compensation benefits. Before this decision, the prevailing thought was that the Court's decision in Coolidge v. Riverdale Local School District precluded Ohio employers from terminating employees for absenteeism or inability to work where the absenteeism or inability to work is directly related to the allowed workers' compensation condition. However, the Court's decision in Bickers expressly limits the application of Coolidge to considerations of "just and good cause" for an employee protected under Ohio Revised Code §3319.16, which governs termination of a contract by an Ohio board of education.

    The good news for Ohio employers is that the Bickers decision answers one of the legal questions left by the Coolidge decision. Specifically, Ohio employers can now rest assured that Coolidge does not create a cause of action for an at-will employee who is terminated for non-retaliatory reasons while receiving workers' compensation. Therefore, under Bickers, an employee receiving workers' compensation benefits may be terminated for the same reasons as any other employee so long as the action taken against the employee is not in retaliation for filing, instituting, pursuing benefits or testifying in any workers' compensation proceeding.

    For further information regarding this ruling, please contact your principal Squire Sanders lawyer or one of the individuals listed in this Alert.

    The contents of this update are not intended to serve as legal advice related to individual situations or as legal opinions concerning such situations. Counsel should be consulted for legal planning and advice.

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    December 2007