Developments continue to emerge regarding the status of State Issue 4 (the Ohio Healthy Families Act) and Governor Strickland's efforts to negotiate a more business-friendly compromise. The compromise would have replaced the November 4 ballot initiative that seeks to require Ohio employers to provide seven days of paid sick leave per year. The ballot initiative, however, would impose significant administrative burdens on employers, creating additional cost and confusion.
Baker Hostetler participated extensively in the negotiations, drafting proposed compromise language, and working directly with the Governor's senior staff. As of the evening of August 20, 2008, it appears that negotiations have reached an impasse. In response to this impasse, today, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher announced their opposition to Issue 4. In a statement, Strickland and Fisher said, "while we would hope that all Ohio businesses would make paid sick days available to their employees whenever possible, we believe that this initiative is unworkable, unwieldy and would be detrimental to Ohio's economy, and we will be opposing it and asking Ohioans to oppose it as a result."
The compromise negotiations involved more than 20 large Ohio employers and trade associations, as well as proponents of the ballot initiative, led by the SEIU. The compromise negotiations were intended to produce a far less burdensome version of mandatory paid leave than the current ballot initiative and, in fact, resulted in agreement on several issues important to employers, including accrual and accumulation of sick leave or PTO, use of paid leave, right to collectively bargain, effect on current leave policies, prohibitions and the effective date. Key issues that remain unresolved up to this point are the number of days of paid leave and the minimum size of employers to be covered. Proponents of the ballot initiative pointed to a Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month showing that 69 percent of Ohio voters support the ballot initiative as a reason not to compromise on the two outstanding issues.
Proponents of the ballot initiative had expressed a willingness to take their version of the Act off the ballot if compromise legislation is passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by the Governor by September 5, the deadline for removing an issue from the ballot.
What Employers Should Do Now
Although the negotiations are currently at impasse, we are not recommending employers take any action to modify their existing leave policies BEFORE the September 5 deadline lapses. Modification of existing leave policies should only occur once there is more certainty as to the outcome and effects of this initiative.