Recent Ohio Legislation: The SmokeFree Workplace Act and Minimum Wage Amendment

November 13, 2006

On November 7, 2006, Ohio voters passed The Fair Minimum Wage Amendment and The SmokeFree Workplace Act, both of which significantly affect Ohio employers.  The SmokeFree Workplace Act will be effective as of December 7, 2006.  The Fair Minimum Wage Amendment has two effective dates.  The minimum wage increase is effective as of January 1, 2007.  However, the Amendment’s recordkeeping and disclosure requirements take effect December 7, 2006. 

SmokeFree Workplace Act
Under this Act, all public places and places of employment are now required to be smoke-free.  As they affect employers, the most significant requirements of the Act include:

Enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited include, but are not limited to offices, restrooms, meeting rooms, hallways, warehouses, break rooms, parking garages, and vehicles.  Therefore, any employer who has allowed smoking within the workplace or in areas adjacent to a workplace entrance must designate those areas non-smoking within 30 days.

Exempt from coverage under the Act are private residences, family-owned businesses closed to the public, private clubs without employees, and outdoor patios.  However, these exempted areas may be designated non-smoking at the owner or employer’s option. 

Minimum Wage Amendment
This Amendment raises the minimum wage an Ohio employer must pay its employees from the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, to $6.85 per hour.  Employees who earn tips as part of their wages may be paid a lesser amount, but not less than half of the newly established wage. 

Exempt from the Amendment’s coverage are employees under the age of 16 and employees of businesses with under $250,000 in gross annual receipts, who may be paid no less than the national minimum wage.  The definitions applied by the Amendment are the same as those set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act, except that the term “employer” includes the State and its political subdivisions, and the term “employee” excludes individuals employed on the employer’s property or the individual’s residence on a casual basis.

The Amendment’s record-keeping requirements are of great significance to all Ohio employers, even those that do not employ minimum-wage workers.  Employers are required to:

The Amendment also provides that employers who are found to have violated these requirements must pay back pay, damages, and the employee’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees within 30 days.  Damages will be assessed at twice the amount of back pay.  However, where an employer has violated the Amendment’s anti-retaliation provision, an employer will be liable for an amount set by the State sufficient to compensate the employee and to prevent future violations, but at a minimum of $150 each day that the violation occurred. 

For further information, please contact Cynthia Crain at (513) 651-6425 or or any other member of our Labor and Employment Department.

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