Ohio's state House has given its approval to a two-year $644.6 million budget for the state’s Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC).
House Bill 80 includes a last-minute addition aimed at making it harder for workers living in the country illegally to file a workers’ compensation claim. Democrats objected, saying it could encourage employers to hire more workers living in Ohio without legal permission, which, in turn, could threaten workplace safety and cost Ohio taxpayers more in the long run.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, offered an amendment to place the responsibility to verify an employee’s legal status on employers. The proposal failed.
“We need to place the liability of hiring an employee back where it belongs – on the employer,” Galonski said in a statement. “We cannot give law-breaking corporations a free pass and expect taxpayers to cover the cost. Every Ohio worker deserves to feel safe on the job and secure that they’ll be fairly compensated if they get injured through no fault of their own. That’s the Ohio promise. We cannot turn our backs on working people.”
The bill also includes a provision allowing emergency personnel who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to file a workers’ compensation claim even if they do not have an accompanying physical injury.
“We have first responders who are getting post-traumatic stress disorder because of their job. We also know they can’t get the support they need under Ohio’s current workers’ comp law,” House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said in a statement. “That changes under the legislation the House approved today. It’s the right thing to do for people who are putting their lives on the line for us every single day.”
The Ohio BWC is the country’s largest state-funded workers’ compensation system and one of the 10 largest workers’ compensation underwriters nationwide. Employers’ assessments fund workers’ compensation coverage in Ohio and the BWC receives no funding from the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF).
“Part of Ohio’s fundamental promise is that everyone should be able to live, work and retire here with safety and security, and the work our Democratic members put into this bill brings us one step closer to keeping that promise to everyday Ohioans,” Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said in a statement. “This budget delivers real results for working people and families by extending benefits for our first responders and better protecting Ohio workers.”
The bill also includes a provision that requires the state’s superintendent of industrial compliance to establish a test to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under Ohio’s workers’ comp, unemployment and income tax laws. The test is consistent with one the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses.
HB 80 now heads to the Senate. Gov. Mike DeWine must sign the bill into law by June 30.