religious exemptions to Ohio workers' comp

Getting hurt at work is a devastating experience, and many Ohio employees do not have previous experience with the Ohio Workers’ Compensation System. Accordingly, when an employee sustains a serious injury and is informed that his or her employer does not have workers’ compensation coverage, that news can be confusing and demoralizing. Depending upon the circumstances, you may be able to work with an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer to hold your employer accountable for failing to comply with Ohio law. To be clear, most employers are required to pay workers’ compensation premiums so that injured employees can be eligible for compensation. If an employer fails to make required payments and does not have workers’ compensation coverage, that employer can be classified as a “non-complying employer” and can face serious consequences.

Yet there are some exceptions to workers’ compensation coverage requirements, and one of them is a “religious” exemption. What should you know about the religious exemption? And can it prevent an injured worker from obtaining compensation through the workers’ compensation system? We want to provide you with more information about the religious exemption and how it applies in workplaces in Ohio.

What is a Workers’ Compensation “Religious Exemption”? 

According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), “[e]mployers and employees who, in following the tenets of their religion, object to the payment and acceptance of insurance benefits can apply to be exempt from workers’ compensation coverage in Ohio.” In order to be granted an exception, the BWC emphasizes that “the employer and employees must be members of a religious sect that has existed continuously since December 31, 1950, e.g., Amish or Mennonite, or a division of that sect.” The BWC further clarifies that “the employer and employees must be conscientiously opposed to accepting insurance payments resulting from injury, death, or disability, or payments toward medical care for injuries and illnesses.”

In sum, in order for an employer to be eligible for a religious exemption, that employer must be a member of a long-existing religion, and the religion or sect must be conscientiously opposed to insurance payments for injury, death, or disability. In Ohio, the exception primarily applies to Amish and Mennonite employers.

Does My Employer Have an Automatic Exemption? 

If you work for an employer who claims they have a religious exemption because they are opposed to insurance payouts for workplace injuries, it is critical to work with an Ohio workers’ compensation lawyer who can determine whether that employer actually has an exemption. To be clear, religious exemptions are not automatic—an employer must apply for the exemption.

Merely expressing belonging in or adherence to a religious sect that has conscientiously opposed accepting workers’ compensation insurance payments is not sufficient for the exemption. Rather, the employer must explicitly apply for and be granted the exemption in order for the employer to in fact have a religious exemption.

Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Ohio 

If your employer says you are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits because of a religious exemption, you should seek advice from one of our Ohio workers’ compensation lawyers as soon as possible. Contact Nager, Romaine & Schneiberg Co., LPA today for assistance with your claim.