On December 19, 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Ohio Senate Bill 331, which, among other provisions, generally grants private employers exclusive authority to establish policies regulating hours of work and fringe benefits and prohibits cities from raising their minimum wage rates above the state’s rate. These provisions, housed within the so-called “Petland bill,” which began as an effort to prevent cities from limiting where pet stores could purchase puppies, provide Ohio employers with a sense of consistency where varying local laws have impacted multiple business locations.

The bill, which becomes effective on March 20, 2017, creates a new provision of the Ohio Revised Code, Section 4113.85, which states that the following matters are exclusively established by an employer’s policy, an agreement between an employer and its employees, or a collective bargaining agreement between the employer and its employees, unless an exception applies:

  • The number of hours an employee is required to work or be on call for work.
  • The time when an employee is required to work or be on call for work.
  • The location where an employee is required to work.
  • The amount of notification an employee receives of work schedule assignments or changes to the work schedule assignments, including any addition or reduction of hours, cancellation of a shift, or change in the date or time of a shift.
  • Minimization in the fluctuation of the number of hours an employee is scheduled to work on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
  • Additional payment for reporting time when work is unavailable, for being on call to work or for working a split shift.
  • Whether the employer will provide advance notice of an employee’s initial work or shift schedule, notice of new schedules or notice of changed schedules.
  • Whether the employer will provide additional hours of work to current employees before employing additional workers.
  • Whether the employer will provide fringe benefits and the types and amount of those benefits.

The bill defines “fringe benefits” to include any benefit for which the employer would incur an expense – even if the benefit is paid for entirely by the employee or on the basis of a joint employer-employee contribution – like leaves of absence or vacation, separation, holiday or sick pay.

Additionally, while cities across the country – from Seattle, Washington to Iowa City, Iowa to Portland, Maine – are increasingly outpacing state minimum wage requirements, Ohio cities’ efforts have been seriously curtailed by the passage of S.B. 331, which revised Ohio Revised Code Section 4111.02 to effectively ban Ohio cities from increasing minimum wage rates higher than the state’s rate, which is currently set at $8.15 per hour.

With the influx of local laws and ordinances mandating employer policies like paid sick leave and enacting higher minimum wage rates, the bill’s prohibitions give Ohio employers another reason to welcome in the new year.