Q: What is Ohio’s constitutional minimum wage?
A: Ohio voters amended Ohio’s constitution in 2006 to require employers to pay a minimum wage of $6.85 per hour, indexed to inflation.
Q: How much is Ohio’s minimum wage for 2012?
A: As a result of inflation, the minimum wage rose from $6.85 in 2006 to $7.70 in 2012.
Q: Will the minimum wage continue to rise in the future?
A: Yes. Each year the constitutional minimum wage will increase by the rate of inflation for the previous 12 months.
Q: Are all employees in Ohio entitled to the constitutional minimum wage?
A: Ohio’s minimum wage covers most people. The exceptions include employees under the age of 16 and employees of small businesses (for 2012, a small business’s 2011 annual gross revenue would have to be less than $271,000). However, these Ohio employees of small business are entitled to the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 for 2012.
Others who may be exempted from Ohio’s minimum wage include:
• “tipped” employees (i.e., employees who receive tips as part of their pay), whose minimum wage for 2012 is $3.85 per hour, plus tips;
• family members employed in family-owned businesses;
• employees who work “in or about the property of the employer or an individual’s residence on a casual basis,” (such as babysitters); and
• individuals who have a disability that affects their opportunity for employment, if the State of Ohio permits (for example, those whose employment opportunity may be limited to a “sheltered workshop” environment).
Q: Does Ohio’s minimum wage cover both public and private employers?
A: Yes. The State of Ohio and each of Ohio’s political subdivisions (counties, cities, townships, school districts and other governmental authorities) are covered.
Q: What records must employers keep to comply with Ohio’s constitutional minimum wage?
A: Ohio employers must keep for three years after each employee’s last day of work a record of the employee’s name, address, occupation, pay rate, hours worked for each day worked and each amount paid to an employee. Employers must also provide employees with current employer contact information.
Q: Who is entitled to see these employee records?
A: The employer must provide this information upon request and without charge to the employee or to a person acting on the employee’s behalf (such as the employee’s lawyer, union representative or parent). The employer must also allow the director of the Ohio Department of Commerce access to this information.
Q: What can happen to employers who do not comply with Ohio’s minimum wage law?
A: Employers who fail to comply with Ohio’s minimum wage law face investigations by the State of Ohio on its own initiative or in response to complaints by employees or persons acting on their behalf. Employers must provide the state with any records related to the investigation and other information that may be requested.
Also, an employer who fails to comply may face a lawsuit brought by the state or by one or more employees (or a person acting on their behalf).
Q: If an employee decides to bring a lawsuit over an Ohio minimum wage law violation, is there a time limit for filing?
A: Yes. An employee must file within three years of the violation or three years from the time the violation stopped, if it was a continuing violation.
Q: What must an employer do if an employee wins an Ohio minimum wage lawsuit?
A: When the State of Ohio or a court finds that an employer has violated Ohio’s minimum wage law, the employer must, within 30 days of the finding, pay the employee’s back wages, pay damages equal to an additional two times the back wages, and pay the employee’s costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. In other words, an employer will have to pay three times the unpaid minimum wages, plus the employees’ attorneys’ fees. While the employer may appeal, the money must still be paid within the 30-day period.
Q: Does Ohio’s minimum wage law prohibit retaliation against employees who assert their rights?
A: Yes. It also prohibits employer retaliation against people who assist employees in asserting their rights.
Q: Where can I learn more about Ohio's minimum wage?
A: Visit the Ohio Department of Commerce website at www.com.ohio.gov.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was originally prepared by Akron attorney Neil E. Klingshirn of Fortney & Klingshirn and updated by Cleveland attorneys Keith A. Ashmus and Jennifer L. Isaacs of Frantz Ward LLP.