Wage Loss Does Not Require Employee Remain with Employer
State, ex rel. Stafford v. Indus. Comm. (12/30/98), 84 Ohio St.3d 215.
Issue: Is an injured worker barred from wage loss compensation when they leave the employer of injury to work for a different company?
Background: Stafford was released with restrictions to return to work in 1992. She could not do her previous job.
Her company offered her another job within her physical restrictions. Stafford did not accept this job and went on voluntary layoff.
In 1994, she began working again at a different company. She filed a motion for wage loss beginning in 1993. She claimed wage loss for the periods of unemployment and for the period in which she earned less than she had made prior to her injury.
The Commission denied wage loss, finding that Stafford had abandoned her employment and therefore forfeited her entitlement to wage loss. The Commission also found that she had not performed a credible job search for a position within her medical restrictions and that the evidence did not show her inability to find employment or to return to other positions. Stafford filed a mandamus challenge.
The Court of Appeals returned the case to the Commission for further consideration of the job search issue and ordered the Commission to vacate those portions of the denial based on abandonment and to enter a new order granting or denying benefits.
Decision: Supreme Court affirms.
Wage loss benefits are not barred simply because a claimant no longer works at the company she worked at when injured, regardless of the cause of that separation.
Stafford was medically precluded from her former job. She can thus attempt to establish eligibility for wage loss.
A good faith job search is required. Stafford’s records show contact with hundreds of employers. The Commission, without explanation, found this search did not demonstrate good faith. The lack of explanation violates the Supreme Court’s recent decision in State, ex rel. Harsch v. Indus. Comm. (1988), 83 Ohio St.3d 280.