The first day of committee hearings since the General Assembly returned from the summer recess saw an Ohio Chamber priority advance through the legislative process. The bill – Senate Bill 47 – received the unanimous support of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and is now awaiting a vote on the floor of the Ohio Senate.
This priority legislation aims to limit the likelihood Ohio employers face surprise wage and hour litigation. Under SB 47, Ohio’s overtime statutes are amended to clarify that small amounts of time spent working beyond the scheduled work day is not compensable when the hourly employee is working on their own initiative and without direction from their employer. Likewise, it reinforces longstanding precedent that time spent traveling to and from work is not considered compensable.
These two changes create greater parity between Ohio’s wage and hour laws and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). More uniformity benefits Ohio’s legal climate by reducing the chances an employee can bring a lawsuit based upon an employer’s conduct that is permissible under the FLSA but could be found unlawful under a more generous or ambiguous state law.
The enactment of SB 47 also improves Ohio’s business climate by helping employers reduce the risk of wage and hour lawsuits now that more of their hourly employees are working from home. However, employers may be reluctant to continue letting hourly employees work in unsupervised settings due to an increased risk of litigation since they are not well positioned to verify when an employee is working or not. SB 47 provides employers with the needed assurances to ameliorate this added risk of litigation by preventing small amounts of working time spent outside of scheduled hours and undertaken on the employee’s own initiative without informing their employer cannot form the basis of a lawsuit.
Following today’s committee vote, the Ohio Chamber is pushing for the Senate to pass this bill quickly in order to give plenty of time for the Ohio House to consider the bill and vote on it by the end of this General Assembly.