Every year, millions of workers are injured or fall ill on the job. Fortunately, most employees recover and return to their work as before the accident. For others, however, the injury or illness leaves them with lasting physical or emotional limitations. While they may return to the workforce in some capacity, with these new restrictions, it can be difficult for them to find work that equals their previous pay or even find any work. The Ohio workers’ compensation system recognizes this hardship, and it offers wage loss compensation to help bridge the income gap caused by the work injury
What Is Wage Loss Compensation in Ohio?
Wage loss compensation is meant to address the reduction in income that can occur when medical limitations prevent an employee from returning to his previous job. To qualify, an employee must be experiencing reduced income. Even if an employee cannot return to the same job as before the injury, but can earn wages equal to before, he would not qualify for wage loss benefits. And the income reduction must be directly related to the medical limitations imposed by the injury. In Ohio, there are two wage loss benefits:
- Non-working wage loss – Offered when the employee is medically released to return to work, but cannot find employment.
- Working wage loss – Offered when the employee returns to work, but earns less pay because of his medical restrictions.
Non-Working Wage Loss Benefits
The first wage loss benefit is available when the employee cannot obtain suitable employment. If he is out of work because of his physical limitations, he can receive wage loss compensation. The main stipulation of this benefit, however, is that the employee must be actively seeking work. The worker must prove that he “is making a good faith job search effort.” A good faith job search effort would include:
- Contacting his previous employer to inquire about work that may be available.
- Proving that the employee is spending the same time and effort searching for a job as he would working.
- Registering with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services job search program.
Non-working wage loss benefits can be paid for up to 52 weeks, though payments past 26 weeks can affect the time working wage loss compensation is available.
Working Wage Loss Compensation
Working wage loss compensation is appropriate when an injured employee returns to work, but takes a job with different duties and responsibilities and less pay. In these situations, it is possible to be awarded 2/3 the difference between the average income earned in the year before the injury and the income earned after. An injured employee can receive working wage loss compensation for up to 200 weeks.
It is possible to receive both non-working wage loss and working wage loss compensation. Some employees may file for non-working wage loss benefits initially, but switch to working wage loss when a new job is secured. While every case is different, the state can allow employees to receive up to 226 weeks total of wage loss compensation, with 26 weeks coming from the non-working wage benefit. And wage loss compensation can affect living wage maintenance payments (and vice versa).
Eligibility for Wage Loss Compensation in Ohio
When seeking wage loss compensation, an employee must satisfy two main elements: medical necessity and job search effort. It will be necessary to provide medical documents from an appropriate provider that support the employee’s claim he cannot return to work as before the accident and stating the specific physical or emotional limitations. Also, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and/or Industrial Commission will examine the employee’s job search effort to ensure the injured worker has sought the best job possible. They will consider:
- Your skills
- The number and quality of job contacts made
- Labor market conditions
- Your physical capabilities
- Attendance at education opportunities provided by the state
- Openness to accepting help from job search entities
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury on the job in Columbus or in another area of Ohio and you are facing limitations on your ability to return to work, call the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Monast Law Office. Jim Monast and his team can help you understand your rights and pursue the maximum compensation for your injuries.