Chapter 4121-15 Code of Ethics
This rule and rules numbered 4121-15-02 to 4121-15-04 and 4123-15-01 to 4123-15-04 of the Administrative Code shall be titled, "Code of Ethics of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Industrial Commission of Ohio" and shall contain the code of ethics for employees of these agencies, including the members of the bureau of workers' compensation board of directors.
In addition to any civil or criminal penalties that may be provided by statute or rule, an employee who violates any of the provisions in the code of ethics shall be subject to discipline as provided in the employee handbook of the employee's agency.
(A) It is essential that the public has confidence in the administration of the industrial commission and the bureau of workers' compensation. This public confidence depends in a large degree on whether the public trusts that employees of these agencies are impartial, fair, and act only in the interest of the people, uninfluenced by any consideration of self-interest, except those inherent in the proper performance of their duties. Each employee, of whatever position, should, therefore, maintain the highest standards of personal integrity, since the public often judges the actions of an employee as reflecting the standards of the employing agency.
(B) The industrial commission and the bureau of workers' compensation are entrusted with the collection and distribution of a large fund. Their employees must respect this trust and should welcome public scrutiny of the way in which they perform their duties in connection with the administration of this fund. They should be willing to accept restrictions on their conduct that may not be necessary of public employees in other agencies, who are not in similar position of trust. They must avoid not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.
It is the policy of the industrial commission and the bureau of workers' compensation to carry out its mission in accordance with the strictest ethical guidelines and to ensure that commission and bureau employees conduct themselves in a manner that fosters public confidence in the integrity of the commission and the bureau, its processes, and its accomplishments.
The commission and the bureau hereby adopt the provisions of the Ohio ethics law, including but not limited to the provisions of Chapters 102. and 2921. of the Revised Code, and as interpreted by the Ohio ethics commission and Ohio courts.
(B) Prohibited conduct
(1) No industrial commission member, the administrator of workers' compensation, bureau of workers' compensation board of directors member, commission employee, or bureau employee shall do any of the following acts:
(a) Solicit or accept anything of value from anyone doing business with the commission or the bureau;
(b) Solicit or accept employment from anyone doing business with the commission or the bureau, unless the member or employee completely withdraws from any commission or bureau discretionary or decision making activity regarding the party offering employment, and the commission or the bureau approves the withdrawal;
(c) Use his or her public position to obtain benefits for the member or employee, a family member, or anyone with whom the member or employee has a business or employment relationship;
(d) Be paid or accept any form of compensation for personal services rendered on a matter before, or sell goods or services to the commission or the bureau;
(e) Be paid or accept any form of compensation for personal services rendered on a matter before, or sell (except by competitive bid) goods or services to, any state agency other than the commission or the bureau, as applicable, unless the member or employee first discloses the services or sales and withdraws from matters before the commission or the bureau that directly affect officials and employees of the other state agency, as directed in section 102.04 of the Revised Code:
(f) Hold or benefit from a contract with, authorized by, or approved by the commission or the bureau, (the ethics law does accept some limited stockholdings, and some contracts objectively shown as the lowest cost services, where all criteria under section 2921.42 of the Revised Code are met);
(g) Vote, authorize, recommend, or in any other way use his or her position to secure approval of a commission or bureau contract (including employment or personal services) in which the member or employee, a family member, or anyone with whom the member or employee has a business or employment relationship, has an interest;
(h) Solicit or accept honoraria (see division (H) of section 102.01 and division (H) of section 202.03 of the Revised Code) except that employees who are not financial disclosure filers may receive an honorarium only if the honorarium is paid in recognition of a demonstrable business, profession, or esthetic interest of the employee that exists apart from public office or employment, and is not paid by any person or other entity, or by a representative or association of those persons or entities, doing business with the commission or the bureau, as applicable;
(i) During public service, and for one year after leaving public service, represent any person, in any fashion, before any public agency, with respect to a matter in which the member or employee personally participated while serving with the commission or the bureau, as applicable;
(j) Use or disclose confidential information protected by law, unless appropriately authorized;
(k) Use, or authorize the use of, his or her title, the name of the commission or the bureau, or the agencies logos in a manner that suggests impropriety, favoritism, or bias by the commission or the bureau, or by a member or employee;
(l) Solicit or accept any compensation, except as allowed by law, to perform his or her official duties or any act or service in his or her official capacity; and
(m) Sponsor parties or other entertainment for the personnel of their agencies, the cost of which are covered in whole or in part by donations or receipts from the sale of tickets to individuals or entities, who are doing or seeking to do business with the commission or bureau.
(2) For purposes of this rule, these phrases have the following meanings:
(a) "Anything of value" includes anything of monetary value, including, but not limited to, money, loans, gifts, food or beverages, social event tickets and expenses, travel expenses, golf outings, consulting fees, compensation, or employment.
(b) "Anyone doing business with the commission or the bureau" includes, but is not limited to, any person, corporation, or other party that is doing or seeking to do business with, regulated by, or has interests before the commission or the bureau, including anyone who is known or should be known to be an agent or acting on behalf of such party, including any person or entity marketing or otherwise attempting to secure business with the commission or the bureau.
(C) Conflict of interest
No employee of these agencies shall engage in outside employment that results in a conflict or apparent conflict with the employee's official duties and responsibilities.
(1) Outside employment or activity in which an employee with or without pay represents a claimant or employer in any matter before the industrial commission or the bureau of workers' compensation is prohibited.
(2) Outside employment with an attorney, representative or entity that involves work concerning industrial claims, whether filed or to be filed, or which is in any way related to workers' compensation matters is prohibited.
(D) Professional code of ethics
In the event there is any conflict between a professional code of ethics governing any employee of these agencies and this code of ethics for employees, the professional code of ethics shall take precedence over the code of ethics for employees but the conflict shall be promptly reported to the employing agency. In such case the agency shall promptly determine the degree of conflict and take such further action as may be indicated.
(E) An employee shall not use state property of any kind for other than approved activities. The employee shall not misuse or deface state property. The taking or use of state property for the private purposes of an employee is prohibited. The employee shall protect and conserve all state property, including equipment and supplies entrusted to or issued to the employee.
(F) Diligence and impartiality in work
Employees are encouraged to avoid absenteeism and tardiness, to not use sick leave unless necessary and to abide by rules of the Ohio civil service. Recognizing that the industrial commission and bureau of workers' compensation serve many people whose interests are divergent, employees should work in a speedy and efficient manner, strive to be courteous, fair and impartial to the people they serve, and responsive to the problems that come before them. All segments of the public are to be treated equally, without regard to age, race, sex, religion, country of origin, or handicap.
(G) It is understood that standards of ethical conduct may involve a myriad of situations. The good conscience of individual employees shall remain the best guarantee of the moral quality of their activities. The overall intent of this code of ethics is that employees avoid any action, whether or not prohibited by the preceding provisions, which result in, or create the appearance of:
(1) Using public office for private gain, or
(2) Giving preferential treatment to any person, entity, or group.
(H) Confidential information
The confidentiality of all information which comes into possession of commission and bureau employees shall be respected. In order to properly discharge this duty, all employees must acquaint themselves with those areas of information that are designated as confidential by statutes, by the courts and by the attorney general. Furthermore, they must become familiar with the circumstances under which and the persons to whom such information can be released.
(I) Every member or employee required to file a financial disclosure statement must file a complete and accurate statement with the Ohio ethics commission by April fifteen of each year. Any member or employee appointed, or employed in a filing position after February fifteen of each year and required to file a financial disclosure statement must file a statement must file a statement within ninety days of appointment or employment.
(A) The "Code of Ethics for Employees of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and Industrial Commission" shall be posted in a conspicuous place in every office of the bureau and commission.
(B) A copy of this code of ethics shall be distributed to each employee. After two weeks from such receipt each employee will certify that the employee has received and read this code. The certification shall be placed in the employee's personnel file.
In accordance with division (C) of section 4121.122 and division (B)(13) of section 4121.121 of the Revised Code, rules 4121-15-05 to 4121-15-09 and 4123-15-05 to 4123-15-09 of the Administrative Code are for the purpose of eliminating improper outside influence on employees of the bureau of workers' compensation and the industrial commission, producing an impartial workers' compensation claims and employer risk account handling process and avoiding favoritism in that process.
To the extent possible, all those who represent claimants or employers shall be furnished without charge with a copy of the "Code of Ethics of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Industrial Commission of Ohio" and with a copy of the rules concerning the elimination of outside influence, producing impartial claims and risk account handling, and avoiding favoritism in this process. These rules shall also, to the extent possible, be furnished to employees or agents of those who represent claimants or employers and who may be permitted to inspect claims and employer risk files, or whose work requires personal contact with employees of the bureau or commission.
Representatives of claimants and employers as well as their employees and agents shall conduct their business with the employees of the bureau of workers' compensation and the industrial commission in accordance with the highest moral principles and are expected to support the "Code of Ethics of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Industrial Commission of Ohio" by conduct that will not tempt employees of the bureau and commission to violate that code but will encourage them to observe it fully. Employees of the bureau and commission shall report to their immediate superior any activity which is, or appears to be, in violation of this rule, for further action by the administrator or by the industrial commission, as the case may be.
Upon receipt of information indicating a violation of rule 4121-15-07 of the Administrative Code, to ensure appropriate corrective action, the industrial commission or the administrator, as the case may be, shall take every action to ensure the matter is investigated, and, provided the circumstances warrant it, shall notify the office of deputy inspector general for the bureau of workers' compensation and industrial commission, and any other appropriate agency or official.
No employee shall have possession of, or have access to, a workers' compensation claim file unless the file is necessary to the performance of the employee's duties. In case of violation or apparent violation of this rule, the executive director of the commission or the chief ethics officer of the bureau, depending on the agency, shall refer the matter to the office of deputy inspector general for the bureau of workers' compensation and industrial commission for investigation, or to the administrator or the industrial commission for action consistent with division (A) of section 4121.122 of the Ohio Revised Code. A copy of this rule shall be distributed to each employee for certification that he has received and read this rule. This certification shall be placed in the employee's personnel file.
(A) Definitions. The following definitions shall apply to the adjudication of all disputes before the industrial commission:
(1) "Claimant" means an employee as defined in division (A) of section 4121.01 and division (A) of section 4123.01 of the Revised Code, who asserts a right, demand, or claim for workers' compensation benefits.
(3) "Party" means a claimant, an employer, the bureau of workers' compensation and any other person, firm, corporation, agent, manager, or entity with an interest in a dispute before the industrial commission.
(4) "Adjudicator" means all hearing officers, the members of the industrial commission and their staff and any employee of the industrial commission who functions in an adjudicatory capacity in the resolution of a workers' compensation dispute or who assists in the decision making or deliberation processes in such disputes, including, but not limited to, employees of the industrial commission who participate in any alternative dispute resolution process as established by the industrial commission under the authority of division (J)(1) of section 4121.36 of the Revised Code.
(5) "Representative" means any person who appears before the adjudicator, prepares any document on behalf of any party for use by the adjudicator, renders any advice or performs any other related service for a party with respect to a dispute before the industrial commission.
(6) "To review" means to read with the intention that the knowledge gained from the reading shall be used in the decision making process with respect to the merits of:
(b) Deciding whether to hear a request for reconsideration filed with the members of the industrial commission; or
(c) Deciding any dispute before the industrial commission.
(7) "Ex parte communication" means any oral, written, electronic or other method of conveying information regarding the merits of a dispute before the industrial commission.
However, "ex parte communication" does not include:
(a) Oral, written, electronic or other methods of conveying information regarding the merits of a dispute before the industrial commission when such information is conveyed in the course of a hearing, including, but not limited to, testimony and other evidence offered at a hearing and information submitted to the claim file in the normal course of the dispute resolution process;
(b) Information regarding procedural aspects of the cause when such information does not include any reference to the merits;
(c) In the case of hearing officers, the members of the industrial commission or their staff, any information obtained by reviewing the claim file;
(d) In the case of hearing officers who participate in the decision making process regarding whether to present discretionary appeals filed pursuant to division (E) of section 4123.511 of the Revised Code and requests for reconsideration to the members of the industrial commission, any written information filed in support of an appeal or request for reconsideration with the appeals and reconsiderations section of the industrial commission which is subsequently placed in the claim file;
(e) In the case of a hearing officer, exchanges of information with other industrial commission employees which are intended to assist the hearing officer in adjudicating a particular issue(s) in a claim; however those with whom the information is exchanged shall not act in an adjudicatory capacity in the claim with respect to the particular issue(s).
(f) Deliberations and discussions regarding claims before the members of the commission between and among the members of the industrial commission the employees of the legal services section and other personnel designated by the members of the industrial commission to assist the members of the commission in the adjudicatory process.
(8) "Conflict" means a situation where the adjudicator is disqualified under the terms of paragraph (B) of this rule.
(B) Disqualification of the adjudicator.
(1) An adjudicator shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which there arises the appearance of impropriety or the adjudicator's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances where:
(a) The adjudicator reviews a written, electronic or other ex parte communication, or participates or otherwise takes part in an oral or other ex parte communication;
(b) The adjudicator has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or representative, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding;
(c) The adjudicator served as a representative in the claim, or a representative with whom the adjudicator previously was associated, acted during such association, as a representative concerning the claim, or the adjudicator or such representative been a material witness concerning the claim. An employee in a governmental agency does not necessarily have an association with other employees of that agency within the meaning of this subsection; an adjudicator formerly employed by a governmental agency, however, should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding if there arises the appearance of impropriety or his or her impartiality might reasonably be questioned because of such association;
(d) The adjudicator knows that, the adjudicator individually or as a fiduciary, or the adjudicator's spouse or minor child residing in the adjudicator's household, has a substantial financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding;
(e) The adjudicator or the adjudicator's spouse, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them, or the spouse of such a person:
(i) Is a party to the proceeding, or an officer, director, or trustee of a party;
(ii) Is acting as a representative in the proceeding;
(iii) Is known by the adjudicator to have an substantial financial interest that could be affected by the outcome of the proceeding; or
(iv) Is to the adjudicator's knowledge likely to be a material witness in the proceeding.
(2) An adjudicator has a duty to be informed about his or her personal and fiduciary financial interests, and make a reasonable effort to be informed about the personal financial interests of his or her spouse and minor children residing in his or her household.
(3) For the purposes of this paragraph:
(a) The degree of relationship is calculated according to the civil law system;
(b) "Fiduciary" includes, but is not limited to, such relationships as executor, administrator, trustee and guardian;
(c) "Substantial financial interest" means more than five percent ownership of any partnership, trust, business trust, corporation or association.
(C) Disqualification procedures
(1) If a hearing officer is disqualified, the hearing officer shall:
(a) Make every practicable effort to obtain another hearing officer to hear the claim at the same date, place and time as it was originally scheduled; or
(b) In cases where another hearing officer is not available to hear the claim at the same date, place and time, issue an order which discloses that a conflict exists, briefly describes the nature of the conflict and which resets the claim for hearing before a different hearing officer.
(2) In cases where a member of the industrial commission is disqualified by a conflict:
(a) Where only one member of the industrial commission is disqualified by a conflict, the parties may:
(i) Elect to proceed with a hearing before the remaining member(s) of the industrial commission present at the hearing, and to have the claim voted upon by the two members who are not disqualified by a conflict; or
(ii) If only one member of the industrial commission who is not disqualified by a conflict is present at the hearing, elect to have the claim reset for hearing before the two remaining members of the industrial commission who are not disqualified by a conflict.
(b) Where two or more members of the industrial commission are disqualified by a conflict, the commission shall issue an order disclosing that the conflict exists, briefly describing the nature of the conflict and indicating that the decision from which the appeal(s) or request(s) for reconsideration is/are taken shall stand.
(D) Processing of written ex parte communications received by the members of the industrial commission:
(1) Any written ex parte communication received by any member of the industrial commission and/or any employee of that member's staff shall be immediately transmitted, without review, acknowledgment or comment, to the appeals and reconsiderations unit of the industrial commission or other appropriate place of filing.
(2) All written ex parte communications received by any member of the industrial commission and/or any employee of that member's staff shall be placed in the claim file.
(E) Nothing in this rule shall require the disqualification of an adjudicator who reads a document, whether written, electronic or otherwise, or a portion thereof, to ascertain whether it pertains to the merits of a dispute before the industrial commission, so long as immediately upon ascertaining that the document pertains to the merits of a dispute before the industrial commission, the adjudicator processes the document in accordance with the provisions of this rule.
Five Year Review (FYR) Dates:
Promulgated Under: 119.03
Statutory Authority: 4121.122, 4121.30, 4121.31
Rule Amplifies: 4121.36
Prior Effective Dates: 7/4/1997, 6/1/2008, 6/20/2013