Skip to Main Content
Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Ohio

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Ohio.

At-Will Employment

Ohio is an employment-at-will employment state, which means that in the absence of a written employment agreement or a collective bargaining agreement, either the employer or the employee may terminate employment for any reason that is not contrary to law. Wiles v. Medina Auto Parts, 773 N.E.2d 526, 529 (Ohio 2002).

Ohio recognizes exceptions for a wrongful discharge claim when an employee's termination clearly violates public policy. Sutton v. Tomco Machining, Inc., 950 N.E.2d 938 (Ohio 2011). The existence of such a public policy may be discerned by the courts based on sources such as the Ohio and United States constitution, legislation, administrative rules and regulations, and the common law. Id. An employer's right to terminate an otherwise at-will relationship may also be limited by an implied contract where the facts and circumstances may imply a contract, even if the employer does not provide a written employment agreement. Dunn v. Bruzzese, 874 N.E.2d 1221 (Ohio Ct. App. 2007). Establishing an implied contract of employment requires proof of all the elements of a contract. Id.

Additionally, an Ohio employer's right to terminate an otherwise at-will relationship may be limited by promises made to the employee within the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Mers v. Dispatch Printing Co., 483 N.E.2d 150 (1985). Ohio recognizes the promissory estoppel exception when the employer makes an unambiguous and clear promise of continued employment on which the employer should have reasonably expected its employee to rely, and the employee's reasonable reliance was detrimental to the employee. Id.

Right-to-Work Law

In Ohio, individuals have a right to work that cannot be "denied or abridged"” on account of membership or non-membership in a labor union or organization. Ohio Rev. Code § 4113.02.

Immigration Verification

Ohio places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. There is no requirement to use E-Verify under Ohio state laws.

Drug Testing

Ohio has not enacted any general employment drug or alcohol testing laws. However, Ohio employers may require employees to follow the requirements of the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act (41 U.S.C. § 8102) without risking discrimination charges. Ohio Rev. Code § 4112.02(N)(2)(d).

Moreover, Ohio law requires drug testing for contractors working on public improvement contracts and for ambulette driver applicants for licensed medical transportation companies. See Ohio Rev. Code § 153.03(B); Ohio Rev. Code § 4766.15(A)(3). There is no minimum number of employees required to be covered under these laws.

Jury Duty Leave

It is unlawful for an employer to persuade or attempt to persuade any juror to avoid jury service; to intimidate or to threaten any juror in that respect; or to remove or otherwise subject an employee to adverse employment action as a result of jury service if the employee provides reasonable notice of his or her absence. Ohio Rev. Code § 2313.19(A). Additionally, it is unlawful for an employer to require or request an employee to use annual, vacation or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty. Id. § 2313.19(B). Ohio state law does not require the employer to compensate the employee for time taken to serve jury duty and the employer is not required to provide annual, vacation or sick leave when employees otherwise are not entitled to those benefits under the employer's policies. Id.

An employee has no private right of action under Ohio's jury duty leave statute. However, employees terminated as a result of performing jury duty may bring claims for wrongful termination in violation of public policy under Ohio's common law doctrine. Greeley v. Miami Valley Maint. Contractors, Inc., 551 N.E.2d 981, 985-86 (Ohio 1990).

Voting Leave

Ohio law prohibits employers from terminating or threatening to terminate an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time off to vote. Ohio Rev. Code § 3599.06. Ohio law does not specify whether employer may designate the hours used for voting leave. Id.

An employer who violates this law may be required to pay a fine not less than $50 nor more than $500. Id.

Parental Leave

The Ohio Civil Rights Act, which applies to all employers with four or more employees, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02. The regulations interpreting this law (contained in the Ohio Administrative Code) prohibit employers from penalizing employees because they need time off work for pregnancy or childbirth. Ohio Admin. Code § 4112-5-05.

Ohio employers with four or more employees must grant a reasonable amount of leave to eligible female employees for pregnancy-related disabilities and childbirth. Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02; Ohio Admin. Code 4112-5-05.

The State of Ohio grants full and part-time state employees who work 30 or more hours per week up to six weeks of leave for birth or adoption. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.136(A)(1). To qualify, an employee must be the biological or legal guardian of the child and live in the same household as the child. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.136(A)(2).

Leave may not be more than six continuous weeks, which shall include four workweeks or paid leave for full-time employees and a pro-rated amount of paid leave for part-time employees. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.136(B). There is a 14-day waiting period during which employees will not receive paid leave. During the remaining four weeks, employees will receive 70 percent of their base rate of pay. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.136(C). Parental leave is counted against FMLA entitlement. If an employee is eligible under FMLA the employee is entitled to use the provisions of either the FMLA or state law, whichever is more generous. Ohio Rev. Code § 124.136.

Other Leave

Ohio law does not require private employers to provide employees with vacation, bereavement or sick leave, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. However, employers are subject to the federal Family Medical Leave Act and its requirements.

Smoking Laws

In Ohio, smoking is prohibited throughout the entire indoor workplace and outside immediately adjacent to entrances or exits to the building. Ohio Rev. Code § 3794.02. An employer may designate the entire workplace nonsmoking. Smoking is permitted outdoors, including outdoor patios that are physically separate from enclosed areas, as long as windows and doors prevent migration of the smoke into enclosed areas.

Ohio law requires employers to post "No Smoking" signs or the international "No Smoking" symbol at each entrance of the workplace. All signs must contain a telephone number for reporting violations. Ohio Rev. Code 3794.06(A).

Break Time to Express Milk

Ohio law does not require employers to provide nursing mothers with breaks to express breast milk. However, employers are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work.

Meal Breaks

Ohio law requires employers to provide employees under the age of 18 years a 30-minute uninterrupted break when working more than five consecutive hours. Ohio Rev. Code § 4109.07.

Minimum Wage, Overtime, and Wage Recordkeeping

Beginning on January 4, 2021, Ohio set minimum wage at not less than $8.80 per hour. Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.02. Employers must still comply with federal wage laws and regulations. The employer can pay tipped employees $4.40 per hour as long as the employee's tips bring the total hourly wage up to the state minimum wage. Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.02.

Provisions governing overtime pay can be found under Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.03. Generally, if an employee works more than 40 hours, the employee must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay. This does not apply to agricultural employees. Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.03.

Every employer shall make and keep for a period of at least three years, available for copying and inspection by the Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce, a record of the name, address and occupation of each of his or her employees, the rate of pay, the amount paid each pay period to each employee, hours worked each day and each work week. Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.08.

Final Payments

The State of Ohio requires employers to issue an employee's final paycheck on the on the next regular payday or within 15 days of the date of termination, whichever is earlier. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4113.15.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Ohio Admin. Code § 4141-1-01. Unemployment benefits are administered by Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services, and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed on the Department's website.

Workers' Compensation

Under the Ohio Workers' Compensation Act (OWCA), all Ohio employers that are not self-insured must pay insurance premiums for exclusive coverage with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (OBWC). This coverage includes indemnity and medical benefits for injury, occupational disease and death claims that have occurred in the course of, and arising out of, employment. Ohio Rev. Code § 4123.54. Certain employers may be exempted from this requirement if they are approved for self-insured status. Ohio Rev. Code 4123.35(B).

Employers not approved for self-insured status are known as state fund employers. State fund and self-insured employers must post their Certificate of Coverage in a highly visible location in the workplace. Ohio Rev. Code § 4123.84. Furthermore, Ohio employers cannot opt-out of workers' compensation coverage. The Ohio workers' compensation law is compulsory and is the exclusive remedy for employment injuries. Ohio Rev. Code § 4123.01.

Child Labor 

Except in limited situations, children 13 years old or younger may not work in Ohio. Youth who are 14 and 15 years old may work in a broader range of jobs but are significantly limited in the number of hours per day and per week they may work, especially when school is in session. Youth who are 16 and 17 years old may work in a broad range of jobs, but cannot work in those jobs that have been explicitly deemed to be too hazardous. Ohio Rev. Code § 4109.02.

Gun Laws

Under Ohio law, public and private employers cannot establish, maintain or enforce any policy or rule that prohibits a person with a valid concealed handgun license from storing the firearm or ammunition in the person's privately owned motor vehicle parked in a permitted location on the employer's property. An employer may require that employees lock firearm and ammunition in the trunk, glove box or another enclosed compartment or container within the privately owned vehicle. Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.1210.

Concealed weapons are banned from government buildings (including police stations, jails and courtrooms), airports and airplanes, places of worship, or any place where the carrying of a concealed weapon is prohibited by federal law.

Additional Laws and Regulations

Equal pay

The Ohio Equal Pay Law (EPL) prohibits discrimination in the payment of wages based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or ancestry for jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and are performed under similar conditions. The EPL also prohibits retaliating against an employee for alleging a violation of the Equal Pay Law or participating as a witness in an equal pay claim proceeding. Ohio Rev. Code § 4111.17.

Medical Marijuana

Ohio law authorizes the use of medical marijuana. However, employers are not required to permit or accommodate use, possession or distribution of medical marijuana by their employees Ohio Rev. Code § 3796.28(A)(1).

Ohio law does not prohibit employers from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person due to that person's use, possession or distribution of medical marijuana. Ohio employers are also permitted to enforce a drug testing policy, drug-free workplace policy or zero-tolerance drug policy. Ohio Rev. Code § 3796.28(A)(2)-(3).

Have Questions?
Let's Talk!

Click the button above to reach out to a
Baker Donelson L&E Professional.

Disclaimer: These materials do not constitute
legal advice and should not be substituted
for the advice of legal counsel.

Guide last updated July 2021.

Email Disclaimer

NOTICE: The mailing of this email is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Anything that you send to anyone at our Firm will not be confidential or privileged unless we have agreed to represent you. If you send this email, you confirm that you have read and understand this notice.
Cancel Accept