In these difficult economic times, many people are finding it necessary to work more than one job to get by. Moreover, many employers see the use of part time workers as a way to reduce labor costs, and as a result fewer full time jobs are available. Because of these trends, the number of workers holding more than one job is on the rise. The United States Department of Labor recently reported that one out of every seventeen American workers works more than one job.
A decision earlier this month by the Supreme Court of Ohio in a case handled by Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer offers some good news to those working more than one job: if you become disabled due to an industrial injury, you are entitled to a compensation rate based on all of your earnings. You are not limited to compensation based only on the wages you earned from the job where you were hurt
In State, ex rel. FedEx Ground Package System v. Industrial Commission we represented a worker who was employed part-time at FedEx as a package handler. He worked a second part-time job with a pest-control company. The pest control job paid considerably more than his job at FedEx and therefore accounted for the majority of his income. When he was injured on the job at FedEx and was unable to work at either job, however, FedEx based his temporary total disability benefits only on his earnings from FedEx.
We argued to the Industrial Commission that the calculation of temporary total disability benefits should be based on the earnings from both jobs. The Industrial Commission agreed, and ordered FedEx to increase the temporary disability payments. The adjustment ordered by the Commission resulted in a weekly disability benefit which was more than the employee made at FedEx, though it was less than his average weekly earnings based on both jobs.
FedEx filed an action in the Tenth District Court of Appeals in Columbus, seeking an order overturning the Industrial Commission decision and reducing the compensation to reflect only what the injured worker earned in his job as a package handler. The company argued that it was unfair to order an employer to pay an injured employee a disability benefit which was more than what he earned working for it. FedEx also argued that a 1933 Ohio Supreme Court decision prohibited consideration of the pest control earnings, because that job did not involve the same sort of work activities as the package handling position. When the Court of Appeals rejected these arguments and upheld the Industrial Commission’s order to base compensation on the wages from both jobs, FedEx appealed that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.
On June 8, 2010, nearly four years after the industrial injury which gave rise to this dispute, the Supreme Court of Ohio rejected the employer’s arguments and held that the Industrial Commission properly ordered the inclusion of the wages from both jobs in determining the weekly disability benefit.
This is an important victory for working men and women in Ohio. In addition to protecting workers with more than one job by making clear that compensation must be based on the combined earnings from all employment, this decision reminds us equal justice under law is not just a hollow slogan. In this case, a part-time employee fought back against a major corporation with vastly superior economic resources, and won. All of us at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer are pleased to have been a part of this win for working people.