Forum Selection Clauses Put Employees At Risk

Forum Selection Clauses Put Employees At Risk.  Do You Take The Time To Read Your Employment Contract?

Today's market demands home delivery of both goods and services, oftentimes with the expectation that the good or service be provided almost immediately after the request.  As a consequence, more employers in Ohio and the midwest find it necessary to employ individuals capable of traveling throughout the state/region/country.  Interstate travel has become a common feature of modern employment, but with it comes risks natural to travel.  When a majority of an individual's work day is spent in transit, they are obviously placed at a far greater risk of an accident than your typical desk job.

Employers in Ohio are well aware of this risk and are becoming increasingly aware of their ability to mitigate the cost of this risk by compelling Ohio employees to accept what is essentially a state sanctioned forum selection agreement. Forum selection clauses and mandatory arbitration agreements alike have been rightfully derided by consumer rights advocates as a predatory practice, and have come under increased scrutiny in recent days for their ability to insulate corporate America from liability by providing them with a home court advantage.   When it comes to workers' compensation in Ohio, the C-112 form provided by the Bureau of Workers' Compensation enables this insulation for multi-state employers by acting as a waiver to a right otherwise codified by statute, in this case R.C. section 4123.80.  The unfortunate reality for Ohio employees is that you may be granted inadequate benefits from an alternative jurisdiction in the event of claim allowance, or alternatively you may be compelled to litigate your claim in an inconvenient venue in the event of claim denial.

The General Assembly has compounded this issue by enacting R.C. section 4123.542, which precludes the pursuit of a claim in Ohio in the event a determination on the merits is issued by an alternative jurisdiction.  In neighboring jurisdictions, a variety of different parties are able to file a claim on behalf of the injured worker, oftentimes without the injured worker's consent or acknowledgment.  This means multi-state employers can file a workers' compensation claim for an injured worker in a neighboring jurisdiction to avoid liability in Ohio provided a determination on the merits of the claim is issued before the merits of the Ohio claim are considered.  A determination of the merits, for purposes of the language expressed in the code, means any decision concerning the compensability of the claim.  In jurisdictions other than Ohio, this decision is oftentimes made by a private insurance company, with ample economic incentive to deny coverage, after a cursory review of the evidence.

As an Ohio employee exposed to risk on the roads and highways of our state, it is incumbent upon you to know your rights and to protect your interests before agreeing to the terms of hire. Do not forfeit your right to coverage in Ohio, do not allow or enable your employer to abdicate their coverage responsibilities.  Please speak to an attorney in the event you suffer a work injury while in transit.  There are unfortunately too many opportunities for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation to deny coverage, or for your employer to contest coverage in the event of an automobile accident.