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State ex Rel Friendship Supported Living, Inc. v. Ohio Bur. Of Workers’ Comp., Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-957.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Supreme Court found in this case that the BWC had abused its discretion by failing to sufficiently account for the factors required in determining whether in-home direct-care workers were employees rather than independent contractors. The Appellee Friendship Supported Living Inc. underwent a premium audit in 2008 and the BWC classified their workers as independent contractors.  An audit in 2017 yielded the exact opposite result, the BWC classifying their direct-care workers as employees, and not independent contractors.  

Friendship Supported Living Inc. protested the BWC’s audit findings to the Adjudicating Committee who determined that they had the “right to control the workers.” They appealed further the Administrator’s Designee who again cited “sufficient control” over the workers to classify them as employees. Friendship Supported Living Inc. filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus requesting that the workers be classified as independent contractors and reimburse them for the premiums it had incurred as the result of the BWC’s classification.  The Court of Appeals granted the writ and ordered that BWC to vacate its order classifying the workers as employees and ordered the BWC to return any premium payments paid on that classification. Rather than adopt the Court of Appeals decision, the Supreme Court noted that the BWC orders’ were not sufficient because they did not consider the totality of circumstances in the light of the relevant factors and order a limited writ to return to the issue to the BWC to specifically, address compliance and quality, workers’ freedom to work for other entities, and routes traveled and length of employment factors.

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