Among the many benefits and justifications for using a staffing firm is known as “exclusive remedy”: a worker who is injured on the job must seek compensation through the employer’s workers’ compensation policy. And in the case of the contingent workforce program, an injured temporary worker must seek remedy through the staffing firm’s policy. Because the client company is under contract with the staffing firm, it is protected from separate litigation.
An Ohio court of appeals confirmed that premise last month in its ruling on Thomas v. PSC Metals, reaffirming a staffing company’s payment of workers’ compensation premiums of assigned employees shields both the staffing company and its customer from workplace negligence claims.
The case involved a temporary worker, Anthony Thomas, who was torch-cutting a steel-wheel pavement roller at PSC Metals’ scrap yard to which he was assigned by staffing firm Callos Resource. Immediately after he began cutting, the clothing underneath his protective gear caught fire. Though his coworkers were able to put out the fire, Thomas suffered severe and permanent burns to his torso and legs. Thomas received workers’ compensation from Callos’ workers’ compensation policy, but sought further compensation from PSC. The court found “PSC arranged for Callos to pay the workers’ compensation premiums, both businesses were liable under the workers’ compensation statutes, and Thomas received workers’ compensation benefits. Based on that evidence, a reasonable trier of fact could only come to one conclusion: PSC is immune from Thomas’s negligence suit.”
State corrects its error. In January, a Wisconsin court appeared to upend the exclusive remedy concept, though legal observers noted the ruling in question hinged on faulty language in the statute at hand. Specifically, exclusive remedy would only apply when “the temporary employee ‘makes a claim for compensation.’” Therefore, a temporary employee “who has not made a claim for compensation under the act is permitted to pursue a tort claim against his or her temporary employer.” The state has since amended that law to close that loophole.