In 2020, the Ohio BWC decided to return a total of nearly $8 billion in dividends to Ohio employers over the course of the year. Although the amount of the dividends reflected an effort to assist employers reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, dividend returns are not exclusively a COVID-19 relief effort; any given year, the BWC may return dividends to employers based on investment returns on employers’ premiums and the number of injury claims for that year. Last year was much higher than typical years, however, as the BWC saw especially good returns on premium investments and a significant decrease in the number injury claims with business activities slowed and many employees working from home or out of work entirely. This allowed for an especially large payment of dividends to be returned to employers… or at least, qualifying employers.
Not all Ohio employers received all of their dividend checks last year. There were three rounds of dividend payments issued by the BWC—a return of $1.54 billion in late April, another $1.34 billion returned in October, and then approximately $5 billion in December. To be eligible for the October and December dividend returns, employers needed to have paid premiums for the policy periods referenced above. Employers also need to have completed their payroll true-up reports for the 2019 policy year by October 2, 2020—the day that the BWC determined eligibility for the October dividend. Employers who had not completed their payroll true-up reports by that date missed out on their checks for the October and December dividends—substantial sums of money during a time of particular financial hardship—and were essentially left without recourse. The BWC literature available to employers online was unequivocal with respect to that October 2nd deadline, with no clear method for appeal or review regarding eligibility. Employers either received their checks in the mail or, if they missed the deadline for any reason, did not.
Spurred on by the efforts of many employers who missed out on their share of the dividends and their attorneys—including several attorneys here at Frantz Ward—the BWC has reversed course regarding its refusal of payment of the $5 billion December dividend to employers who did not originally meet the eligibility requirements. Approved by vote of the BWC Board of Directors on September 24, 2021, $30 million in previously unpaid dividend returns will go out to approximately 3,000 employers that missed out on the original December dividend payment. According to the BWC’s FAQ located here, the primary reason for this decision is the fact that the October 2, 2020 “deadline” for eligibility for the dividend payments was actually one month prior to Board approval of the December dividend, meaning that many employers found themselves already ineligible with no opportunity to remedy it by the time the dividend was announced.
The BWC announced that it will directly contact employers eligible for this dividend expansion, but employers who believe that they may be eligible but do not receive any such communications from the BWC should consult their legal representative or contact their BWC employer services specialist regarding the issue.