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Motor Carriers Beware - Lack of Written Independent Contractor Agreement Can Be Costly

Given recent changes in Ohio workers’ compensation law, “motor carriers” (as defined by Ohio law) operating in Ohio should carefully review their arrangements with independent contractor drivers and promptly implement changes to ensure compliance with statutory criteria. 

This past year, the Ohio Legislature revised the definition of “employee” as applicable to motor carriers. The statutory revisions can be viewed as either a burden or benefit to the motor carrier. For the motor carrier that carefully examines its practices and ensures compliance with the statutory criteria, the new law can certainly be viewed as additional protection against increased exposure to administrative actions, lawsuits, and substantially higher workers’ compensation premiums. 

Until recently, Ohio courts and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (and Industrial Commission) utilized a test developed at common law to determine whether a driver performing services for a motor carrier was an independent contractor or employee. The common law test required an analysis as to whether the carrier controlled the means and manner of the driver’s work – a test often subject to inconsistent application and, consequently, inconsistent rulings by the applicable tribunal. Motor carriers were left with little direction. 

Revised Code 4123.01(A)(1)(d) provides the motor carrier with a test which, if followed, should help the decision-maker find that the carrier’s independent contractors remain as such in the eyes of administrative agencies and the courts. If the driver meets the following seven criteria, the driver will likely not be regarded as an “employee” for purposes of workers’ compensation: 

  1. The contractor owns the vehicle or vessel that is used in performing the services for or on behalf of the carrier, or the contractor leases the vehicle or vessel under a bona fide lease agreement that is not a temporary replacement lease agreement. For purposes of this division, a bona fide lease agreement does not include an agreement between the contractor and the motor carrier transporting property for which, or on whose behalf, the person provides services;
  2. The contractor is responsible for supplying the necessary personal services to operate the vehicle or vessel used to provide the service;
  3. The compensation paid to the contractor is based on factors related to work performed, including on a mileage-based rate or a percentage of any schedule of rates, and not solely on the basis of the hours or time expended;
  4. The contractor substantially controls the means and manner of performing the services, in conformance with regulatory requirements and specifications of the shipper;
  5. The contractor enters into a written contract with the carrier for whom the contractor person is performing the services that describes the relationship between the contractor and the carrier to be that of an independent contractor and not that of an employee;
  6. The contractor is responsible for substantially all of the principal operating costs of the vehicle or vessel and equipment used to provide the services, including maintenance, fuel, repairs, supplies, vehicle or vessel insurance, and personal expenses, except that the carrier may pay the contractor from the carrier’s fuel surcharge and for incidental costs, including tolls, permits, and lumper fees; and
  7. The contractor is responsible for any economic loss or economic gain from the arrangement with the carrier. 

With this test, motor carriers operating in Ohio should expect greater predictability in terms of application and enforcement. Motor carriers that do not effectively implement the necessary changes may find themselves deemed “noncomplying” by BWC and thus subject to costly lawsuits by injured drivers, loss of common law defenses, and administrative enforcement proceedings and assessments. Note that this test is also now used to determine the driver’s status for purposes of unemployment compensation and minimum wage and overtime laws. Motor carriers should be quick to examine their written agreements and practices.

For more information on these recent changes, contact Stephen Matasich or Richard Williger.

We are Working in a Virtual, Video-Conferencing World – But What About Wiretapping?

Businesses and other organizations often have a need or desire to record telephone conversations related to their business interests and customer dealings; however, this practice is not always permissible as federal and state laws vary on this issue. Knowing and understanding your jurisdiction’s rules and regulations on this practice is essential to remaining in compliance with the law.

President Trump Signs Executive Orders that Enable Access to Affordable Meds

On Friday, July 24, 2020, President Trump signed four Executive Orders concerning prescription drug pricing which collectively direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to take following actions: 1. Increase Patient Access to Insulin and Injectable Epinephrine 2. Facilitate the Importation of Certain Prescription Drugs 3. Remove the Anti-Kickback Safe Harbor Protection for Prescription Rebates 4. Implement the “Most Favored Nation” Order to Lower Medicare Part B Drug Cost

Guidance for Employers Receiving HHS Funding During COVID-19 on Civil Rights Protections

On July 20, 2020, HHS OCR issued guidance to help employers receiving federal financial assistance understand their requirements to comply with applicable federal civil rights laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in HHS-funded programs during COVID-19; specifically, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”). Title VI states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Ohio Businesses Required to Post Exceptions to State-wide Mask Mandate at all Entrances

On July 22, 2020, in conjunction with the state-wide mask mandate instituted by Governor Mike DeWine, Lance D. Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an order requiring Ohio businesses to post any permitted exceptions they provide to customers, patrons, visitors, contractors, vendors and similar individuals to use facial coverings at all business entrances.

ODM and OhioMHAS Continue to Expand Telehealth

On July 17, 2020, Governor DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-29D, which allowed the Ohio Department of Medicaid (“ODM”) to immediately rescind old provisions and file a new rule (5160-1-18) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (“OhioMHAS”) to amend their current rule (5122-29-31), both expanding telehealth and introducing even more flexibility into Ohio’s healthcare system.