When Calculating Wage Loss, Bonus Applies Only to Weeks Bonus Earned
State ex rel. City of Middleburg Heights v. Indus. Comm. (2001), 92 Ohio St.3d 476.
Issue: When calculating wage loss compensation, does a bonus apply only to the weeks the injured worker received the bonus (which would permit wage loss for other weeks) or should the Commission average the bonus over all the weeks at issue (which would mean no wage loss occurred)?
Background: Schaefer was injured in 1995 while working as a police officer. His doctor stated that he could not return to his former position of employment and put him on restrictions.
He got a different job and applied for wage loss. He received two bonuses at the new job, including a signing bonus.
The DHO awarded wage loss, finding that the injury precluded him from his former employment. The DHO assigned the signing bonus to his first week of work and denied wage loss for that week. The DHO took the other bonus, divided it by the number of weeks worked, and found a wage loss.
Schaefer obtained a letter from his new employer indicating that it gave him the second bonus due to his work from November 1, 1996 through February 1, 1997.
The SHO recalculated the wage loss. The SHO only attributed the second bonus to the weeks mentioned in the letter and divided it among those weeks. The SHO awarded Schaefer wage loss except for his first week of work and November 1, 1996 through February 1, 1997.
Middleburg Heights filed a mandamus challenge which the Court of Appeals denied.
Decision: Supreme Court affirms denial of mandamus (7-0).
The Court says that the Commission apportioned the bonuses to the weeks for which Schaefer’s extra efforts generated the bonus.
Middleburg Heights argued that, in total, Schaefer earned more at his new job than he would have earned as a police officer.
The Court follows its decision in State ex rel. Haddox v. Indus. Comm. (2000), 88 Ohio St.3d 279, which held that wage loss is considered week by week.
The Court finds that the Commission did not retroactively apply OAC 4125-1-01(A)(16) which became effective after Schaefer’s date of injury. The DHO specifically acknowledged that this provision did not apply.
The Court finds a causal relationship between the wage loss and injury because Schaefer’s doctor indicated he could not do his former job and had restrictions. Middleburg Heights had no work within his restrictions. Schaefer found alternate full-time work within the restrictions.
Editor’s Comment: OAC 4125-1-01(A)(16) provides a method for allocating bonuses, effective May 15, 1997.