Monday, January 14, 2008

Just say no -- Dealing crack is gainful employment, according to the Ohio Supreme Court

Every once in a while you come across a case that just makes you shake your head in disbelief. State ex re. Lynch v. Indus. Comm. is such a case.

In 1967, Henry Lynch suffered an injury at work, from which he was declared permanently and totally disabled and received a commensurate workers' compensation award. Thirty years later, a federal grand jury indicted Lynch for possession, sale, and distribution of crack cocaine, to which he pleaded guilty. It was alleged that from 1994 through 1997, he earned between $300 to $500 a week from selling crack. After he was incarcerated, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation moved to terminate Lynch's permanent total disability compensation. The commission found that Lynch's "criminal activities for profit ... constitute[d] sustained remunerative employment," and terminated his benefits retroactive to the date the federal indictment alleged he began selling crack.

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld that decision, holding that Lynch's ongoing crack-cocaine enterprise constituted sustained remunerative employment sufficient to terminate permanent total disability compensation. In the Court's words:

Lynch also claims that the commission cannot consider the activity he engaged in to be sustained remunerative employment, because the activity was illegal. We disagree. Lynch cannot use the illegality of his pursuits as a shield. Lynch exchanged labor for pay on a sustained basis. This constitutes sustained remunerative employment for purposes of permanent total disability.

So here are the questions of the day: If Lynch has 4 dealers working for him, does he have to abide by Ohio's employment discrimination laws? If he has 50 dealers working for him, does he have to grant them FMLA leave? Are his dealers eligible for workers' comp if they are injured on the job?

[Hat tip to the Evil HR Lady.]