Convicted of fraud, nurse ordered to pay BWC $23K in restitution

Felony conviction for Shaker Heights woman

A Cleveland-area nurse was ordered to pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $23,000 in restitution April 7 after BWC discovered her working while collecting injured-worker benefits.

A Franklin County judge ordered Tanya Houston, 46, of Shaker Heights to pay $23,489 to BWC and serve five years of probation in lieu of a one-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

“We’re here to provide compensation for people who can’t work because of an on-the-job injury, not supplement the income of fraudsters cheating our system,” said BWC Interim Administrator John Logue. According to BWC’s Special Investigations Department, Houston was working as a therapeutic program nurse when she injured herself in June 2019. As she collected disability benefits from BWC for the injury, she continued to work for a second employer without informing BWC, the employer where her injury occurred, or her physician and other treatment providers.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Customers show us the love during COVID-19

BWC’s economic, health and safety initiatives draw high praise

By Winnie Warren, BWC Interim Chief of Employer Services

Working for the state of Ohio, we all know our job is to serve our fellow Ohioans and hopefully make a positive difference in their lives, so it’s gratifying when our colleagues and leaders take note — an email or video message from Administrator Stephanie McCloud, for instance, or a nod from Governor Mike DeWine at his daily press briefings.

But it’s doubly rewarding when the people you serve reach out and thank you themselves. We’ve received many emails, phone calls and social media posts in recent weeks praising our efforts to help business owners through the COVID-19 pandemic. One call in particular stands out. It was from Heather Baines, the founder and president of HR Construction Services LLC in Cleveland.

Heather Baines, founder and president, HR Construction Services in Cleveland

Heather wanted to personally thank us for two things — a check she received in late April for $9,450, her company’s share of the $1.6 billion dividend we sent to Ohio employers to ease the impact of COVID-19 on their bottom line. She also appreciated the box of 50 face coverings we sent her as part of our Protecting Ohio’s Workforce – We’ve got you covered initiative.

She said both were blessings at a critical time.

“Between the financial help and the masks, it almost made me want to cry because it shows I’m not forgotten,” Heather said. “There have been some terrible days – days where I questioned, ‘What am I doing and why am I still doing this?’”

Heather told me about her business, that all the reasons she started her company — to hire local contractors and bring diversity to jobsites in her hometown while growing a minority-owned business — were coming to fruition. Then the pandemic hit and made a mess of everything.

Getting that check from BWC meant everything, she said. It meant she could pay her workers, her office rent, purchase jobsite materials and fund her employees’ benefits. (Nearly 200,000 Ohio employers received a dividend, which roughly equaled their entire BWC premium in policy year 2018.)

“We’re still new in the construction industry, so paying on time is huge for me,” said Heather, who founded her company in 2015. “That’s a great reputation to have. The money goes out as quick as it comes in, but that check was tremendous and made a big difference.”

The face coverings were another godsend, she said. In late May we started sending at least 2 million face coverings to employers across the state to weaken COVID-19’s spread. We’re not billing employers for this initiative. At less than a dollar a piece, we’re picking up the tab from this year’s budget.

Heather told me her employees had been wearing disposable masks that cost her up to $5 a piece, and they were using the same one on multiple days because supply was hard to find. Her neighbor, who was making masks for health care workers, made some for Heather’s employees, too. Then BWC’s shipment arrived.

“It meant a whole lot that my company was a part of the distribution,” she said. “So often things are given to larger companies, and it’s the smaller ones that can really use the help.”

Thank you to Heather for sharing her story. We’re so glad our mission and agency values of providing superior customer service show up in a myriad of ways. We’re proud to serve Ohioans every day, but especially in their greatest time of need.

Crew members of HR Construction Services in Cleveland wear face coverings provided by BWC while working on an overpass in Cleveland.

Safety rocks and rolls at Cleveland-area safety council’s CEO event

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

rocknrollGiven the recent success of the Cavaliers and the Indians, Cleveland is suddenly known for its professional sports teams. But at the recent Cleveland Southwest Safety Council (CSSC) CEO event, Harley-Davidson motorcycles – and rock music – took center stage.

More than 180 CSSC members and their highest-ranking local officials gathered at the Rock-N-Roll City Harley-Davidson dealership, which opened just a year ago in Brook Park, to hear owner Mike Davis discuss his company philosophy and the importance it places on safety. Mike is the owner of four dealerships in Ohio, but he started his career in aeronautics, an industry equally dedicated to safety.

rocks-2The CSSC often selects a local business to host its CEO networking event, believing that members enjoy a non-traditional setting that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of a company’s operation. Previous hosts have included the NASA Safety Center and Kaufman Container.

Many of the dealership’s 50+ employees mingled with guests, speaking proudly of their visibility in the community and popularity with travelers passing through Cleveland at nearby Hopkins airport.

rock4On the day of the event, visitors in town from Chicago for game two of the World Series stopped by the dealership to shop at one of Harley-Davidson’s newest state-of-the art dealerships.

Safety staff Gayle Luker and Nicole Lorenzo, from BWC’s Garfield Heights customer service office, mingled with attendees, touching base with existing customers and developing new leadership contacts.

Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the agency, reinforcing BWC’s commitment to creating a forum for safety education, reducing accidents and making Ohio a safer place to work.

Following the meeting, representatives from several employers approached me to express their appreciation for BWC’s safety efforts. Steve Hilton, the Health Safety & Environmental Manager of self-insuring ThyssenKrupp Materials NA (Ken-Mac Metals Division), is responsible for the company’s workers’ compensation in several states. He said he is most impressed with the no-added cost “pre-paid” services unique to Ohio. He lauded the recent air monitoring provided by local industrial hygienist Ron Kruchan and acknowledged the significant cost-savings it provides his company. Each year, ThyssenKrupp also invites safety managers from eight plants across the country to BWC’s annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus to capitalize on the education and certification credits it offers.

These are just some of the many benefits Ohio employers enjoy as part of their BWC workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

BWC sponsors 82 safety councils across the state to provide a forum for accident prevention, workers’ compensation and health & wellness information in local communities. The Berea, Brook Park and Middleburg Heights chambers of commerce co-sponsor the CSSC. They work together to provide valuable monthly occupational safety and health educational opportunities to more than 130 members.

For more information about the Cleveland Southwest Safety Council, visit their website.