In State ex rel. Cordell v. Pallet Cos., Inc., 149 Ohio ST.3d 483, 2016-Ohio-8446, the Supreme Court of Ohio recently held in favor of an injured worker terminated for post-accident drug screen results. In 2012, James Cordell was working for Pallet and was seriously injured when he fell near a loading dock. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits the day after the accident.
Mr. Cordell was subjected to a post-accident drug screen while at the hospital. The results came in six days later and were positive for marijuana metabolites. Mr. Cordell was terminated immediately.
Workers’ Comp & The Tenth District Court of Appeals
The Industrial Commission of Ohio ultimately determined Mr. Cordell was ineligible for compensation benefits finding that he had “voluntarily abandoned” his employment by using marijuana prior to the accident. The Tenth District Court of Appeals granted Cordell a writ of mandamus compelling the commission to vacate its order denying compensation and to issue an order granting the same.
Supreme Court of Ohio Ruling
The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the Tenth District, specifically holding that “when an employee is terminated after a workplace injury, his termination does not amount to a voluntary abandonment of employment for purposes of TTD compensation when (1) the discovery of the dischargeable offence occurred because of the injury and (2) at the time of the termination, the employee was medically incapable of returning to work as a result of the injury.”
A sound decision and offers good clarity for employers and employees, moving forward.
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