Supreme Court of Ohio Addresses Requirements to Establish Retaliatory Discharge under RC 4123.90

Ohio Revised Code section 4123.90 prohibits employers from taking adverse employment action against an employee because he or she “filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer.” Ohio caselaw has been inconsistent as to whether the statute requires that the employee establish that he or she actually suffered a workplace injury.  For instance, if an employee filed a workers’ compensation claim that was ultimately denied administratively, can he or she still establish a case of retaliatory discharge under RC 4123.90?

In Onderko v. Sierra Lobo, Inc., Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-5027, the Ohio Supreme Court addressed this very question. The Court resolved any confusion and held that a Plaintiff is not required to prove that his or her injury was work-related in order to prevail under RC 4123.90.  Simply put, proof of injury at work is not an element of a case of retaliatory discharge under the statute.  It is sufficient for a Plaintiff to merely file a workers’ compensation claim.  The Court emphasized that the language of the statute hinges on the employer’s response to the Plaintiff’s pursuit of benefits, not the award of benefits.

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