Voluntary departure from workforce shuts door on eligibility for TTD benefits
Case name: State ex rel. Pierron v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, et al., No. 2007-1460 (Ohio 10/15/08).
What it means:
When an injured worker's separation and departure from the workforce is unrelated to his industrial injury, he is ineligible for temporary total disability compensation under Ohio law.
Summary: After suffering serious injuries in 1973 while working as a telephone lineman, the claimant continued to work for the employer for 23 years in a light-duty warehouse job. However, when the employer eliminated the light-duty position in 1997, it told the claimant he could either retire or be laid off. He chose to retire. Several years later, he sought TTD benefits. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals' decision that because the claimant's retirement from his warehouse job did not result from his industrial injury, his retirement could not be considered involuntary. He was therefore barred from receiving TTD compensation.
The Supreme Court acknowledged that the claimant did not initiate the departure from his employment, but stated that he was still required to prove a causal relationship between his industrial injury and "either his departure from [the employer] or his voluntary decision to no longer be actively employed." It noted that the claimant's failure to search for employment in the years after his light-duty job was eliminated "evinced an intent to leave the work force."
The court further reasoned that "workers' compensation benefits were never intended to subsidize lost or diminished earnings attributable to lifestyle decisions." In the court's view, because the claimant's departure from the workforce was not "motivated by injury," it was presumed to be a lifestyle choice.
November 17, 2008
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