Ohio law regarding minimum wage is described in Section 34a of Article II of the Ohio Constitution and Chapter 4111 of the Ohio Revised Codes (ORC), which is commonly referred to as the Ohio Minimum Wage Standards Act (MWSA).
What is Ohio’s constitutional minimum wage?
In 2006, Ohio voters amended their state constitution by passing Issue 2, the Ohio Fair Minimum Wage Amendment. Effective January 1, 2007, the minimum wage for Ohio workers increased from $5.15 to $6.85 per hour, indexed to inflation. The minimum wage has been adjusted to inflation annually since then. As a result of inflation, it increased to $8.10 in 2015.
Are all employees in Ohio entitled to the constitutional minimum wage?
Ohio’s minimum wage covers almost all employees in Ohio. However, it does not apply to employees under age 16, employees who receive tips, and employees of small businesses (less than $297,000 in annual gross revenues in 2015). Tipped employees may be compensated at no less than one-half the minimum wage, and the hourly rate of pay plus tips must equal at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for those of small businesses and those under age 16.
Who else is excluded from Ohio’s constitutional minimum wage?
The exempt employees include, but not limited to individuals employed:
- as a baby sitter or live-in companion (whose principal duties do not include housekeeping);
- as sales persons compensated by commissions;
- in services of a charitable nature;
- at a camp or recreational area for minors, if operated by a nonprofit organization;
- employees of a solely family owned business who are family members of an owner.
What records must employers keep to comply with the constitutional minimum wage?
Ohio employers must keep for three years after each employee’s last day of work a record of the employee’s:
- Rate of pay;
- Hours worked each day and each work week by the employee;
- Amount paid each pay period to the employee.
What will the employers face if they fail to comply with MWSA?
Employers who fail to comply with MWSA will face:
- Complaints by employees, persons acting on their behalf and/or any other interested party to the State of Ohio.
- Investigations by the State of Ohio on its own initiative; and
- Lawsuits by the State of Ohio, an employee, or persons acting on behalf of an employee.
What is the statute of limitations for an MWSA lawsuit?
An action for equitable and monetary relief must be brought against the employer within three years of the violation or of when the violation ceased if it was of a continuing nature, or within one year after notification to the employee of final disposition by the state of a complaint for the same violation, whichever is later. ORC 4111.14(K).
What can the employee recover if the court finds that the employer violated MWSA?
The employer must, within 30 days of the finding of its violation:
- Pay the employee’s back wages;
- Pay damages equal to an additional two times the back wages;
- Pay the employee’s costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
In other words, the employer will have to pay three times the unpaid minimum wages, plus the employees’ attorneys’ fees.
Does MWSA prohibit retaliation against employees who assert their rights?
Yes. It also prohibits employer retaliation against people who provide assistance to employees asserting their rights. Employers who retaliate must pay an amount “sufficient to compensate the employee and deter future violations,” which amount is not less than $150 for each day that the violation continued, presumably after the employee or other person asserted their rights.