As mandated by both federal and state law, employers in Ohio have certain obligations to treat their workers fairly in a safe and healthy environment. At the same time, employees have legal protections and resources should their rights and well-being be violated.
These obligations and rights extend from discrimination and harassment protections to safe and healthy workplaces, guaranteed leave for people to care for themselves or their family members, wage-and-hour standards, and much more.
If you’re an employer or employee in the Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus areas of Ohio, and you need help in understanding and implementing various federal and state employment laws, or in protecting your rights as an employee under these laws, contact us at Duwel Law. We have decades of experience in helping both employers and employees with issues of employment law.
Ever since the Depression-era Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers in the U.S. have been subject to minimum wage and overtime standards, as well as a standardized work week of 40 hours. The federal minimum wage currently stands at $7.25 an hour, though Democrats in Congress are hoping to raise it to as much as $15 an hour. Overtime is set by the FLSA at one-and-a-half times the minimum wage.
Since a voter initiative in 2006, the minimum wage in Ohio has been tied to inflation, so the current hourly rate for 2021 is $8.80. Tipped employees can be paid at the rate of $4.40 an hour. Ohio law allows some smaller employers to use the federal standard and for all employers to pay the federal rate to 14- and 15-year-old employees.
Following the child labor protections of the FLSA, Ohio also restricts working hours for minors under 16 years of age. They can work three hours a day while school is in session, up to 18 hours a week. When school is out, they can work eight hours a day up to 40 hours a week. Minors aged 16 and 17 are not restricted. For all minors, nighttime restrictions are in place, especially during the school year.
Ohio follows the standards and relies on the enforcement arm of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which itself is named after the law that created it — the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970.
OSHA enforces both the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, along with specific regulations that are tied to industries and occupations. The General Duty Clause states that an employer “shall furnish to each of its employees' conditions of employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious injury or harm to its employees.”
OSHA fields complaints from employees in Ohio who report unsafe or unhealthy conditions at work and then conducts inspections and imposes various fines and mandates to correct the condition.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first federal statute aimed at eliminating discriminatory practices in the workplace. It established seven protected categories: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.
Through the years, these classes have been expanded, either by law or court decision, to include pregnancy status, age (40 or above), gender identity, military or veteran status, genetic information, and more.
Similar to the OSH Act and OSHA, the Civil Rights Act and its protections are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which fields and investigates complaints. Like OSHA, the EEOC can impose fines, order restitution, and mandate workplace changes.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 grants qualified employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of protected, unpaid leave (within a 12-month period) to care for their own health or the health of their loved ones.
FMLA also allows leave for the birth or adoption of a child. It was later expanded to include leave for sons and daughters, parents, and other relatives on active duty or recovering from duty-related injuries and illnesses. If an employee is in a caregiver role for a family military member, the leave can be for as long as 26 weeks.
To qualify, the employee must have worked for the same employer for 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months, which do not have to be consecutive to account for seasonal workers. The employer, however, must employ at least 50 people within a 75-mile radius to fall under the mandates of the FMLA.
OSHA also enforces some 22 whistleblower laws that protect employees from being retaliated against. For instance, if an employee reports an unsafe condition at work and is then denied promotion, terminated, reduced in status, or otherwise retaliated against by the employer. OHSA is the responsible agency for investigating and holding the employer accountable through fines, restitution, and other mandates.
Both the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and federal EEOC will field complaints involving discrimination, especially when it comes to adverse employee actions, including termination. Ohio laws mirror the protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and subsequent federal anti-discrimination statutes but lower the employment threshold to four employees from the federal standard of 15 employees.
This discussion covers some of the major employment laws affecting both employers and employees in Ohio. There are more, and they keep changing and being updated all the time. Already, there are initiatives in Congress to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid leave under the FMLA.
With these continuing changes, it’s easy for employers to get confused about what they can and cannot do. How to put all these mandates into operation in the workplace in an impartial way can pose a huge challenge. Likewise, employees are sometimes unaware of the rights afforded to them, or afraid to exercise them for fear of adverse employment action.
If you’re either an employer or employee in or around the Dayton, Ohio area, our team of employment law attorneys at Duwel Law stands ready to answer your questions and help you implement proper workplace standards or exercise your rights under those standards. Reach out to us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case and learn about your options.