Ohio Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into Ohio’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.

One of the most important factors ensuring the smooth operation of any business is its ability to adhere to the regulatory framework of the jurisdictions in which it operates.

Regulatory frameworks in the form of labor laws serve as the backbone for organizational success, and this holds especially true for industries like construction and others centered around field services. They govern employer-employee relationships, protecting the rights of all parties involved in a professional environment to ensure a healthy work environment.

Labor laws dictate key aspects of every business, highlighting the handling of everything from employee breaks to overtime and employee benefits.

Compliance with and adherence to labor laws in Ohio are important to ensure employees know their rights and employers can avoid penalties such as fines and lawsuits.

In this article, one of our 50-part series exploring labor laws in various states in the United States of America, we’ll examine the intricacies of labor laws in Ohio.

The video below offers a quick insight into how Ohio labor laws protect workers’ rights:

Meals and Breaks in Ohio

A longer meal break is related to less physical exhaustion.

Ohio law does not have state-specific meal break laws – the state requires neither meal nor rest breaks, except when minors are involved. In this case, employees are required to provide work breaks only when employees are under the age of 18.

In Ohio, an employee under 18 years old must be provided a rest period of at least 30 minutes for every 5 consecutive hours worked.

On the other hand, while Ohio employers are not legally required to provide adult employees with meal breaks, employers can choose to include breaks in their policies. When employers include such breaks in their policies, they must stick to the rules they provide.

Ohio requires employers to compensate employees for all hours worked if these breaks are to be paid.

According to the US Department of Labor, hours worked are “all the time during which an employee is required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace.” As such, breaks are not included in this definition and do not need to be paid.

An employer who provides employees with a break of more than 20 minutes does not need to pay wages for lunch periods or other breaks. However, according to federal law, breaks twenty (20) minutes or shorter typically must be paid. 

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in Ohio

Ohio has no clear-cut rules regarding employee leave. Employers must provide employees with certain types of leave in the state, while others may be provided solely by choice. These are known as required and non-required leaves.

Leave Type

Covered By Ohio Law?

Military leave


Voting leave


Jury duty leave


Pregnancy and parental leave


Vacation and personal leave


Family bereavement leave


Paid family leave


Family and medical leave


Paid sick leave


Holiday leave


Required Leave in Ohio

In 2022, about 73% of workers in service-related occupations had a fixed number of days per year for paid sick leave, while 66% of all workers had a fixed number of days per year for paid sick leave.

Ohio does not mandate employers provide paid or unpaid leave beyond what federal laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) cover. However, the state does cover certain leave types, which include:

Jury Duty Leave

An employer in Ohio is not required to pay an employee for the time spent responding to a jury duty summons. However, Ohio does prohibit employers from penalizing employees summoned for jury duty.

Employers can’t discharge, threaten to discharge, or take any disciplinary action that could lead to the discharge of any permanent employee summoned to serve as a juror as long as the employee provides reasonable notice beforehand.

Additionally, the law prohibits employers from requesting an employee to use their annual, vacation, or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty, participating in the jury selection process, or serving on a jury.

Employers must note that absence caused by responding to jury duty is unpaid unless an employer chooses to adopt a paid leave policy of their own accord.

Voting Leave

Employers must allow employees a reasonable amount of unpaid time away from work to perform voting duties on election day. The state prohibits employers from penalizing employees with termination or threatening employees for taking reasonable time off to vote. Employers must allow employees a reasonable amount of unpaid time away from work to

Military Leave

In March 2018, 28 percent of private industry workers and 70 percent of state and local government workers had access to employer-provided paid military leave.

Ohio employers with at least 50 employees must provide eligible employees up to two weeks of unpaid military leave. Eligible employees are defined as the legal custodian, spouse, or parent of a current member of the uniformed services who has been called for active duty for more than 30 days, or of a servicemember who has been injured, hospitalized, or wounded while on active service.

To be eligible for military leave, an employee must:

  • Have been employed by the same employer for at least 12 consecutive months;
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months;
  • Be the injured or deployed service member’s parent, spouse, or legal custodian;
  • Provide 14 days’ notice of intended leave for deployment or 2 days’ notice of intended leave for injury;
  • Take leave no more than 2 weeks before or 1 week after deployment; and
  • Have used up all other forms of available leave, except sick or disability leave.

Ohio employers must also follow the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1995 (USERRA) requirements for military leave.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave

Ohio employers must follow federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1995 (USERRA) requirements regarding pregnancy and parental leaves. They are not allowed to penalize employees absent from work due to pregnancy or childbirth.

However, it is important to note that private employers are not required to provide paid pregnancy or parental leave in Ohio.

Non-required Leave In Ohio

Vacation Leave

Employers in Ohio are not mandated by law to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, they must do so under terms stated in an established policy or employment contract.

An employer may lawfully create a policy that denies employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment so long as the forfeiture policy is clear.

Employers may also choose to establish a policy disqualifying employees from access to payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with specific requirements. Employers are required to pay accrued vacation if their policies stipulate it.

Sick Leave

Employers in Ohio are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave benefits. However, if an employer chooses to provide sick leave benefits, it must comply with its established policy or employment contract terms.

Ohio state does not require employers to pay for accrued sick leave upon termination of employment.

Family and Medical Leave

In Ohio, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees with certain leave entitlements.

Paid Family Leave

Ohio requires employers to provide employees with unpaid sick leave per the FMLA or other federal laws. Any employers that had over 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the previous or current year must adhere to this act. 

The FMLA applies to:

Time off under the FMLA is used:

According to the FMLA, employees in Ohio are eligible for three months of leave in one year for any of the above reasons. This leave renews every 12 months if the worker meets eligibility requirements. However, an employee may be eligible for 26 weeks’ leave in one year if this is military caregiver leave.

Bereavement Leave

Although employers in Ohio may choose to provide bereavement leave, there’s no state-specific law governing this type of leave. However, an employer must comply with their written bereavement policies if they choose to provide bereavement leave.

Holiday Leave

Ohio does not mandate private employers to provide their employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. However, many Ohio employers choose to provide paid leave for some or all of the currently celebrated federal holidays, some of which include:

Overtime Regulations In Ohio

Ohio labor laws require employers pay overtime to employees unless the employee is exempt. Overtime applies when an employee works more than 40 hours in a week.

To calculate overtime in this case, employees must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times their regular rate of pay, according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The overtime law typically does not apply to employers who gross less than $150,000 per year.

Employees considered exempt from overtime typically include white-collar workers – employees defined as having administrative, executive, or professional roles. These employees are generally paid on a salaried basis.

Other employees that are exempt from the overtime law in Ohio include:

  • Independent contractors
  • Outside salespeople
  • Certain computer specialists
  • Employees of seasonal amusement or recreational businesses
  • Employees of organized or religious camps or nonprofit educational conference centers operating less than seven months a year
  • Employees of certain small newspapers
  • Newspaper deliverers
  • Workers engaged in fishing operations
  • Seamen
  • Employees who work on small farms
  • Casual domestic babysitters
  • Companions for those are unable to care for themselves
  • Agricultural workers

Employers aren’t required to pay overtime for certain activities, such as:

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Wages and Benefits in Ohio

The minimum wage in Ohio as of January 1, 2023, is set at $10.10 per hour. It applies to all businesses with annual gross receipts of at least $372,000.

The exemptions to this rule include:

  • Employees under 16
  • Businesses with less than $372,000 in annual gross receipts
  • Employees of a family-owned business related to the business’ owner
  • Babysitters and live-in caregivers who don’t handle housekeeping
  • Volunteers for public agencies and health institutions
  • Employers licensed by the state to employ individuals with mental or physical disabilities that interfere with the individual’s ability to work

Exempt businesses do not have to pay the state’s minimum wage, but must still abide by the federal minimum wage requirements of $7.25 per hour.

Tipped Minimum Wage

In Ohio, the tipped minimum wage is set at half the state’s ordinary minimum wage. This places Ohio’s current tipped minimum wage at $5.05 per hour.

Tipped employees must earn at least the state minimum wage of $10.10 an hour when their tips and wages are combined. 

Final Paycheck Law

An employee’s final paycheck can be paid at the time of their termination. The final paycheck must be paid by the next standard payday or within 15 days of termination, whichever is sooner. 

Failure to pay an employee in full and on time can result in liquidated damages of up to $200. 

Reporting Time Pay

Ohio does not require employers to pay employees who report to work if no work is performed. Hence, payment is required only for the hours worked.

Employers in Ohio are not required to provide pay stubs to employees.

Pay Frequency

Employers are required to pay all employees at least semi-monthly.

Employee wages should therefore be paid on the first day of a new month for earnings accrued during the first half of the previous month, while wages from the second half of the previous month must be paid by the 15th. However, employers can establish a different pay schedule, which must be stated in their policies.

Employers can pay employees using cash or check as no law mandates payment methods for employees. However, Ohio sometimes requires certain government employees to enroll in direct deposit for payroll.

Prevailing Wages in Ohio

Employees can earn prevailing wages if they work on federal or state government or government-funded construction projects. Employees may also be eligible if they perform certain federal or state services.

As such, the prevailing wage law applies to construction, reconstruction, installation, demolition, maintenance, and repair work funded by public funds.

Prevailing wages may differ in different locations throughout Ohio, and are also subject to annual changes.

You can look up current Ohio prevailing wage rates on the following sites:

Hiring Practices in Ohio

Ohio generally follows federal guidelines in terms of job postings, interviews, and hiring decisions. Employers are expected to adhere to non-discriminatory practices during recruitment and selection processes.

The Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment. FEPA protects against discrimination on the basis of:

While Ohio has no state-specific law that includes sexual orientation or gender as a protected class against discrimination,  federal anti-discrimination laws may cover both cases.

Equal Employment Opportunities (EEO)

Ohio supports equal employment opportunities, and employers are expected to provide fair and equal treatment to all applicants and employees. EEO principles encompass hiring, promotion, compensation, and other employment-related decisions.

Background Checks

Ohio allows employers to conduct background checks. However, they must comply with federal laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for background checks.

Drug Testing

Ohio requires drug testing for certain employees in the state. This requirement includes contractors on public improvement projects and ambulance drivers with licensed medical transport organizations. Employers must ensure drug testing policies adhere to state and federal regulations.

While Ohio state law allows medical marijuana usage, state employees are not allowed to use, possess, or distribute marijuana. Employers may also not be penalized for refusing to hire, discipline, or discharge employees who use, possess, or distribute marijuana, even if the marijuana is for medical purposes. Employers can enforce drug-free or zero-tolerance workplace policies.

Smoking of any substance is prohibited in indoor workplaces and outdoor areas adjacent to building entrances. These areas should be marked with approved “No Smoking” signs. Employers can choose to designate their entire work sites as non-smoking areas.

Health and Safety Standards in Ohio

Ohio requires all employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment, which includes providing all necessary safety devices, furnishings, and safeguards. In return, employers can require their employees to not remove or damage these safety fixtures.

However, Ohio doesn’t provide detailed legal guidance on workplace safety and health. Instead, it follows federal requirements under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).The OSH Act is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Department of Labor’s (DOL) authority. 

Employees can report workplace safety or health violations online or contact one of OSHA’s offices in Ohio. Employees of public organizations can file a safety and health complaint with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. 

Child Labor Laws in Ohio

Ohio has labor laws protecting employees under the age of 18.

Generally, the state prohibits children 13 or younger from working, with certain exceptions relating to child performers or volunteering.

Minors aged 14 to 17 must obtain a minor school certificate for work clearance. Children aged 16 and 17 are exempt from the certificate requirement during the summer vacation months.

To obtain this certificate, a minor needs information from their employer and their parent(s) or legal guardian(s). A representative of the child’s school district must also approve the form. The minor might also be required to submit a physician’s certificate for jobs requiring a physical. All necessary documents are usually submitted to the Ohio Department of Commerce. 

Ohio prohibits minors, especially those aged 14 and 15, from working certain jobs:

Employees aged 16 or 17 can work a wider range of jobs, but are still subject to some prohibitions. These restrictions include the following types of work:

Minor Working Hours

Ohio also limits working hours for minors.

For minors between 14 and 15 years old, work is prohibited:

  • During school hours
  • Before 7 am
  • After 9 pm between June 1 and September 1, or during school holidays
  • After 7 pm when school is in session
  • More than 3 hours on a school day
  • More than 18 hours per week when school is in session
  • More than 8 hours on a non-school day
  • More than 40 hours per week when school isn’t in session

For minors 16 or 17 years old, working is prohibited:

  • Before 7 am on a school day. (They may work as early as 6 am on a school day if they didn’t work after 8 pm the night before)
  • After 11 pm on any night before a school day
  • More than 40 hours in any one week during school hours, except as part of an approved program such as work-study or vocational training

Employee Termination and Resignation in Ohio

Ohio operates on an “at-will” basis, which means employers or employees can terminate employment without reason so long as the reason isn’t discriminatory or against the law.

However, Ohio limits the “at-will” rule in 2 ways.

Termination cannot violate public policy, which can happen when a law, policy, or legislative action creates occasions under which termination becomes illegal.

Termination also cannot violate implied contracts or promises made to the employee. Implied contracts, also known as promise limitations or promissory estoppel, don’t have to be in writing to be enforced. Hence, if an implied contract is entered into, termination can only occur if it doesn’t violate the implied contract. 

Severance Pay

Ohio does not mandate employers provide severance pay. However, employers can create policies providing severance pay. Employers offering severance pay by contract or employee policies must honor their specified agreements.

Notice Requirements

While Ohio does not have specific state laws mandating notice periods for termination, employment contracts or collective bargaining agreements may specify notice requirements. Employers should adhere to any contractual obligations and consider providing reasonable notice as a best practice.

Right-to-Work Law

Ohio is a “right-to-work” state – employees are not compelled to join or support a union as a condition of their employment.

Unemployment Benefits in Ohio

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost employment through no fault of their own. This benefit offers financial relief until the unemployed worker secures a suitable job or is recalled by their previous workplace.

Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) administers unemployment benefits. Workers are eligible for unemployment in Ohio if they…

  • Are unemployed;
  • Worked in Ohio during the past 12 months;
  • Earned a minimum amount as determined by Ohio guidelines; and
  • Are actively seeking work each week while collecting benefits.

To apply, unemployed workers can call the Ohio DJFS 1-877-644-6562, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays), or on the DJFS website.

The amount to be awarded and duration of unemployment benefits in Ohio vary based on an individual’s earnings and circumstances. Benefits are typically paid for up to 26 weeks.

Penalties for Noncompliance in Ohio

Ohio prioritizes adherence to its labor laws, and noncompliance typically comes with penalties that range in severity depending on the severity of the crime. Penalties for labor law violations come in the form of lawsuits, fines, and in extreme cases, jail time.

Some key penalties for noncompliance in Ohio include:

OSHA Violations

There are several penalties for employers who violate OSHA regulations in Ohio. These include:

  • Non-serious violations – up to $7,000
  • Serious violations – up to $7,000
  • Willful violations – up to $70,000
  • Repeated violations – up to $70,000
  • Failure to abate – up to $7,000 per day

OSHA may reduce these penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding the violation.

Minimum Wage Penalties

Around 213,000 Ohio residents experience wage theft yearly due to minimum wage violations.

An employee earning less than minimum wage can sue their employer for unpaid wages, additional damages, and attorney’s fees. Employees may also be fined up to $500 and/or receive a jail term of up to 60 days, with each week of non-compliance treated as a separate offense.

Overtime Violations

Employers who intentionally or repeatedly disregard minimum wage or overtime pay obligations may face a civil penalty of up to \$1,000 per violation.

Willful violations can lead to criminal prosecution and fines of up to $10,000, with subsequent sentences including imprisonment.

Other Essential Information About Labor Laws in Ohio

Break Time To Express Milk

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

Past Compensation Inquiries

In Ohio, the cities of Columbus, Toledo, and Cincinnati prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their previous compensation (wage or salary history). Employers who violate this prohibition could face civil fines of up to $5,000.

Whistleblower Protection

Ohio’s Whistleblower Protection Act provides employees the right to file a civil lawsuit against their employers for retaliation related to whistleblowing within 180 days of the occurrence.

Employers and employees looking for further details on Ohio’s labor laws can check one of Ohio’s labor-focused public websites:

The Bottom Line On Ohio Labor Laws

Understanding and adhering to applicable labor laws is more than a matter of compliance – it’s fundamental to fair, equitable, and productive work environments.

Employers and employees each play pivotal roles in upholding these standards, ensuring legal adherence while promoting a workplace culture of respect and fairness.

However, staying informed on Ohio’s labor law changes is important, and seeking legal advice may sometimes be critical. Labor laws can evolve, and individual circumstances can vary.

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