Machinist's abandonment of light-duty job precludes temporary total benefits
Case name: State of Ohio ex rel. Jacobs v. Industrial Commission of Ohio, No. 11AP-262 (Ohio Ct. App. 08/21/12).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals held that a machinist was not entitled to temporary total disability benefits because she voluntarily abandoned her position.
What it means: In Ohio, a worker's termination can be considered a voluntary abandonment from employment barring TTD compensation if it originates from behavior that the worker willingly undertook.
Summary: A machinist strained her lower back at work. One month after the injury, her treating physician released her to return to light-duty work. The employer assigned her a light-duty job. After working for an hour, she complained that she could not work because she was in too much pain. The employer believed that the machinist planned to follow up with her physician. After not hearing from the machinist for the rest of the week, the employer mailed her a letter informing her that she was considered absent without notification. When she did not respond, the employer mailed her another letter advising her that she would be terminated if she did not respond. The machinist did not respond, and the employer terminated her for violating its absenteeism policy. She sought temporary total disability benefits. The Ohio Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to TTD benefits.
The court found that the machinist's conduct amounted to a voluntary abandonment of employment that precluded an award of TTD compensation. She did not refuse a job offer of light-duty work. She reported to the light-duty position and left after an hour. The employer's decision to terminate her was based on her unexplained absence, which was a violation of the employer's work rules.
An employer is required to put an offer of light-duty work in writing only if the injured worker refused an oral job offer. Here, the court found that the employer was not required to provide a written job offer because the machinist did not refuse a job offer. She decided not to return to work without any explanation.
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October 25, 2012
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