September 17, 2013
Employer Group Calls On BWC to End Costly Appeal & Repay What They Owe
COLUMBUS, OH — Attorneys representing nearly 270,000 businesses have filed the group’s response to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) appeal of a Cuyahoga County trial court ruling finding that the Bureau had illegally overcharged nearly 270,000 businesses $860 million dollars. As highlighted in the employers’ briefs, the BWC failed in its appeal to deny that employers were unlawfully overcharged.
Four briefs were filed with the appellate court on behalf of the employers, highlighting the fundamental weaknesses of the Agency’s appeal including their admission of the overcharges and their failure to explain what is a clear violation of controlling statutes.
“Instead of correcting a wrong that cost tens of thousands of businesses hundreds of millions of dollars and put thousands out-of-business and cost working people jobs, the BWC continues to say, ‘We overcharged, but we don’t have to pay it back because we are the government’”, said Earl Stein, owner of a Cleveland-area delicatessen and lead plaintiff in the employers lawsuit. “It’s time the BWC acknowledge that the government works for us and when it does wrong it has the same obligation as any of us to correct the wrong. They are not above the law and they are not exempt from doing what is right.”
Instead of acknowledging the overpayment, the BWC has used its appeal to claim that the court has interfered with the BWC’s rate making ‘discretion’, claiming in essence that the agency can do whatever it wants even if it violates the law. The BWC even suggested that making it follow the law creates instability in the system. Eileen Clemente, owner of a Youngstown area ambulance service that was driven to bankruptcy by the BWC’s excessive premiums, responded: “It was the illegal 3,000% increase in workers’ comp rates by the BWC that created instability for employers — not the court’s decision. There is a reason the Bureau had a $9 billion surplus and it’s not because they were looking out for us.”
In their brief, the employers rebuffed the Bureau’s claims, noting Ohio Supreme Court decisions that a state agency cannot replace the law with its own discretion. The plaintiffs’ case was supported by briefs filed by a major Ohio City, labor unions, and a non-profit that provides services to the poor. The supporting briefs reinforced the employers’ positions, noting that the BWC appeal is simply an attempt to retry the case.
“The BWC has repeatedly admitted they overcharged Ohio’s companies and the BWC has already set aside the money from its surplus fund to repay us. It’s time for them to end these costly shenanigans, comply with the court order and pay us what they owe,” said Clemente.
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Appellees’ Answer Brief & Cross Appellants’ Brief in Support
Amici Curiae of City of Cleveland
Amici Curiae of CEOGC
Amici Curiae of Teachers’ Union