The City of Cleveland, an area nonprofit, and several Cleveland-area labor unions submitted briefs in support of the roughly 270,000 businesses that sued the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
The BWC appealed a ruling ordering it to pay nearly $860 million to businesses that claimed they had been overcharged on their premiums. The plaintiffs said they were charged higher rates to compensate for discounted premiums to employers that joined group insurance plans.
"Instead of correcting a wrong that cost tens of thousands of businesses hundreds of millions of dollars and put thousands out of business and cost working people jobs, the BWC continues to say, 'we overcharged, but we don't have to pay it back because we are the government,'" said Earl Stein, owner of a Cleveland-area delicatessen and lead plaintiff in the employers' lawsuit. "It's time the BWC acknowledge that the government works for us and when it does wrong it has the same obligation as any of us to correct the wrong. They are not above the law and they are not exempt from doing what is right."
Among those filing briefs in support of the plaintiffs was the Cleveland Teachers Union. "The CTU joins this brief because the CTU believes that all state agencies must follow the law and do not have unbridled discretion," its brief said. "Further, the economic impact Group Rating has had on employers and employment directly affects the financial stability of the Cleveland Municipal School District."
Local 416 of the Teamsters Union said it was joining because "when an employer faces a 697 percent increase in their workers' compensation premiums, it is the worker who loses his or her job when the company closes." And the Iron Workers Local 17 said it was joining because of the "detrimental effects that the group rating plan has had on Ohio's businesses."
The plaintiffs said the supporting briefs reinforced their positions and that the BWC appeal "is simply an attempt to retry the case."
"The BWC has repeatedly admitted they overcharged Ohio's companies and the BWC has already set aside the money from its surplus fund to repay us," said Eileen Clemente, a business owner who says her ambulance service was driven to bankruptcy because of the BWC's premiums. "It's time for them to end these costly shenanigans, comply with the court order and pay us what they owe."
By Nancy Grover
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 21, 2013
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