New Act Amends Existing Law while Creating New
Ohio Bill SB331 just went into effect on March 20, 2017. The bill was an interesting hodgepodge of laws which included many diverse topics. At 30 pages, it covered nearly everything from “increased penalties for cock fighting” to (ahem) sexual relations with an animal to “the sale of docs from pet stores and dog retailers” The bill included provisions for “Micro wireless compensation to local governments on public way.
Ohio Employment Law Provides Protection to Local Businesses
However, sandwiched between all these many topics included a section that is very important for Ohio businesses. Section 5 of the new law preempts the creation of local law by “political subdivisions” such as cities and counties. The new law may have been in response to the push in Cleveland and Youngstown to enact local employment law.
This month, May 2017, Cleveland residents were to get a chance to vote on an increased city-wide minimum wage. The Fight for $15 was active in 2016 and had the vote been successful, would have made minimum wage in Cleveland the highest in the country. Although several other cities and states have passed increased minimum wage laws, none have made $15 minimum wage effective immediately.
In Youngstown, a “Part Time Bill of Rights” proposal was attempting to provide part time workers with mandatory employment benefits. Among the benefits included were paid time off, advanced notice of work schedules, and the same proportionate of other benefits as full time employees.
In addition, there was also the possibility that cities would pass local sick leave laws as have happened in neighboring states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania, where local sick leave laws are the subject of Federal Court.
The Minimum Wage and Part Time Bill of Rights Battles
Although the bill also covered a ban on local minimum wage increases, it is unlikely that a law passed by Cleveland voters would have held up in court. Ohio is a home rule state, meaning that for the most part cities and towns get to govern themselves, but with specific restrictions. Article XVIII of the State Constitution bars local municipalities from creating laws “in conflict with general laws” and in Section II creates a statewide minimum wage.
In early 2016, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued an Advisory Letter stating that Ohio law already prohibited municipalities from issuing minimum wage laws. Even so, the local initiatives continued and if successful, would have likely resulted in a battle in Federal Court.
Preempting Minimum Wage, Sick Leave, and Secure Scheduling
As Court battles can be a lengthy process, and costly to the taxpayers, SB 331 preempts, in more specific language, local employment law.
As stated, minimum wage increases on anything less than a state level is prohibited. The bill reads; “No political subdivision shall establish a minimum wage rate different from the wage rate required under the section.” This means that cities cannot set a minimum wage that is higher than the wage set by the General Assembly, which is currently set at $6.85, which means that the Federal Minimum wage of $7.25 is currently in effect in Ohio.
SB 331 also prohibits the requirement of “fringe benefits” by local governments. Fringe benefits are considered to be any benefit that adds additional cost to the employer and include sick, vacation, separation, holiday and other paid leave, health, welfare, or retirement benefits. In addition to the direct cost assumed by the employer for fringe benefits includes the additional administrative and managerial cost that is required to prove the employer is compliant with the new laws.
Restrictive Scheduling laws are also prohibited. A fairly new trend, restrictive scheduling laws have already been passed in San Francisco and Seattle, but is currently being debated in Washington DC. Also called “secure scheduling” these laws prohibit and penalize employers for any changes made within 21 days of an employee’s work day. This means that even when employees call in sick, want to trade shifts with another employee, or in any way change their schedule, employers pay costly fines for changes. Although touted as a way to benefit employees as a secure schedule, it actually penalizes employees who fail to adequately plan ahead and request changes of schedule for family emergencies, events, or sickness. Even if by employee request, any changes made within 21 days of the scheduled work day penalizes the employer. It makes employers highly unwilling and unreceptive to any changes that are not required by law, such as the sick leave laws already in place in those cities.
The law also restricts local ordinances that govern the number of hours employees are required to work or be on call, the time of work or on call status, locations where employees are required to work, and notifications to work changes. Further, cities cannot govern whether or not an employer is required to offer additional work hours to existing employees before hiring new employees.
Next Step for Business Owners
Although sick leave and minimum wage are both prohibited on the local level in Ohio, it doesn’t stop the state from looking at a statewide sick leave or minimum wage law in the future. It also doesn’t protect multi-state employers from an array of sick leave laws across the country.
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Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated May 2, 2017