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Ohio Employment Law Basics

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Learn about the federal and Ohio laws that protect employee rights on the job.

If you work in Ohio, you should know about the federal and state laws that protect your workplace rights. This guide provides some basic information on your right to work free of discrimination, your right to minimum wage and overtime protections, and much more.

Wage and Hour Laws in Ohio

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the wage and hour standards employers must follow, including the minimum wage, overtime, and other wage protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. The minimum wage in Ohio for larger employers is $8.10 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. (Smaller employers – those with annual revenues below $297,000 – can pay the lower federal minimum wage.

If you earn tips as part of your compensation, your employer can pay you a lower minimum wage – as little as half of the regular minimum wage – as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your total hourly pay up to at least the full applicable minimum wage.

Under the FLSA and Ohio law, Ohio employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fall within an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime. You can find out more about the FLSA from the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor. The Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration, part of the Ohio Department of Commerce, handles overtime and wage issues in the state.

Ohio Discrimination and Harassment Laws

Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional federal laws prohibit discrimination based on age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law).

Employers may not discriminate in any part of the employment relationship, from job listings, interviews, and hiring decisions, to promotions, benefits, compensation, discipline, layoffs, and termination. To learn more about the federal laws that ban employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.

Ohio also prohibits discrimination based on most of these traits. In addition, Ohio employers may not discriminate based on an employee’s military status or status as a caregiver for a family member who was injured in military service. Ohio employers that have four or more employees must follow these laws, which are enforced by the state Civil Rights Commission.

The laws also prohibit workplace harassment. Harassment is defined as unwelcome actions or statements, based on a protected trait, that create a hostile or offensive working environment or that the target must endure in order to get or keep a job. Sexual harassment is the most familiar type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on disability, race, or another protected trait.

Your employer may not retaliate against you for complaining about workplace harassment or discrimination. You are protected whether you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission), or in a lawsuit.

Time Off Work in Ohio

Many employers offer their employees paid leave, such as vacation time, sick days, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. In Ohio, these benefits are discretionary. Some states require employers to give employees paid sick days, but neither Ohio nor federal law requires employers to offer paid leave.

However, employers may be required to offer unpaid leave for reasons such as:

  • Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Ohio law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service.
  • Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness, caregiving, and bonding with a new child. While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must continue your group health benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through. Although some states have similar laws, Ohio does not.
  • Military family leave. Under the FMLA, eligible employees may take up to 26 weeks off in a single year to care for a family member who was seriously injured on military duty. Ohio law allows employees to take up to ten days off work when a family member is called to active duty or is injured, wounded, or hospitalized while on active duty.
  • Jury duty. Ohio employers must also allow employees to take time off work for jury service. Employees may not be forced to use their paid leave for jury duty.
  • Voting. Ohio employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off work, with pay, to cast their ballots.

Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Safety Laws

A federal law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires Ohio employers to provide a safe workplace, free of known hazards. Employers must provide safe, healthy working conditions as well as the training and safety equipment employees need to do their jobs safely.

Employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they believe their employer has committed safety violations. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.

If you suffer an on-the-job injury or illness, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Ohio employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.

Leaving Your Job

Ohio employees generally work at will. This means they can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about illegal discrimination or filing a wage claim for unpaid overtime.

Unemployment and Insurance Benefits

If you are laid off or otherwise lose your job through no fault of your own (that is, you don’t quit voluntarily or get fired for serious misconduct), you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Once you start receiving benefits, you will have to search for work to continue receiving them. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for 26 weeks while you are looking for a new job. Find out more (or file an online claim) at the website of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Under a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), you may have the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. However, you will have to pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay), plus up to 2% of that amount for administrative costs. You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have questions about your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Ohio employment lawyer.

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