Labor and Employment Alert: Ohio Workers' Compensation COVID-19 Claims and Updates | Brouse McDowell | Ohio Law Firm
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Labor and Employment Alert: Ohio Workers' Compensation COVID-19 Claims and Updates

By Linda L. Stepan on March 24, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, employers should prioritize keeping employees safe. COVID-19 is affecting current workers’ compensation claims, bringing changes to premium deadlines, medical examinations, hearings and audits. Additionally, COVID-19 claims may be brought forward against employers. Although they are generally not compensable, that determination is fact specific to each case.

Bureau of Worker’s Compensation Premiums

To help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will defer premium payments due for March, April and May for the current policy year until June 1, 2020. This includes both private and public employers. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will not cancel coverage or assess penalties during this period for non-payment due to the pandemic. The matter will be reassessed June 1, 2020.

COVID-19 Claims

Claims that COVID-19 was contracted at work generally are not compensable.
People are exposed in many different places. However, claims may be allowed for jobs that pose a special hazard or risk and it can be shown that the disease was contracted from work exposure. Generally, that would be first responders and employees in the medical field. And keep in mind, even though most COVID-19 claims may not be compensable, we may see many claims filed. We must carefully review the facts of each case for compensability.

Medical Examinations

Both injured workers and employers must deal with the inability to schedule medical examinations. Injured workers will continue to receive temporary total disability benefits to April 30, 2020, even if they cannot provide updated evidence of disability with examination or Medco-14 Physicians Report of Work Ability.

Employers will be unable to schedule Independent Medical Examinations to assess an injured worker’s extent of disability/ability to return to work or to assess allowance of claims and additional medical conditions. Reviews, rather than examinations, can be an alternative means of obtaining medical evidence. We are working with medical examiners to determine ways to handle these issues.

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is suspending all Independent Medical Examinations and exploring “virtual” examinations. A virtual examination is generally conducted by video conference.

Hearings

The Ohio Industrial Commission is continuing to adjudicate contested issues.
Hearings have long been paperless and are now being conducted by telephone. Court reporters and interpreters can also attend these telephonic hearings.

Audits

Regarding audits of Self Insuring and State Fund employers, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will suspend face-to-face audits. Paper and virtual audits will continue. Self-Insurers will be issued temporary certificates.

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has issued their response to frequently asked questions about Ohio workers’ compensation during the time of COVID-19 on their website.

We will continue to update you on the legal issues and their implications as this all unfolds. Please bring your questions to us anytime.

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