An injured employee was awarded workers’ comp benefits for over a year. During that time, he helped out at his wife’s business but didn’t get paid. Was that fraud?
Garry McBee received temporary total disability compensation (TTC) for over 16 months due to a workplace injury.
During that time, he helped his wife with her business, but he wasn’t paid.
The Industrial Commission of Ohio found out and ruled McBee shouldn’t have received TTC. The commission also found McBee had committed fraud by submitting disability paperwork in which he said he wasn’t working.
Under Ohio law, work is usually defined as labor exchanged for pay.
However, there is an exception: Unpaid activities that directly generate income for another organization can, in some cases, be considered work for purposes of TTC eligibility.
The court found McBee shouldn’t have received TTC, but it overturned the finding that he had committed fraud. The court found the evidence in the commission’s order didn’t prove McBee knew his unpaid work for his wife’s company constituted work.
The commission took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court agreed with the previous opinion.
The supreme court noted that fraud requires “knowing misrepresentation of a material fact.”
In this case, it was necessary to show McBee was aware his unpaid activities could be considered work.
The documents McBee used to apply for TTC advised only that an injured employee is “not permitted to work” while receiving benefits. The documents don’t define work and didn’t say unpaid activities might be considered work.
For that reason, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that the fraud conviction should be thrown out.
What do you think about the court’s decision and the fact that in some states, unpaid work can cause recipients of workers’ comp to lose their benefits? Let us know in the comments below.
(State ex re. McBee v. Industrial Commission, Ohio Supreme Court, No. 2012-Ohio-2678, 6/19/12)
You can download a PDF of the court’s opinion here.