Judge Strikes Law Preventing Patchwork of Local Labor Ordinances

Last week, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge struck portions of Senate Bill 331, passed last legislative session during lame duck, that prohibited localities from enacting labor laws ranging from higher minimum wage to mandated paid sick leave. Citing a violation of the “single subject” provision of Ohio’s Constitution, the Judge kept in place the underlying bill dealing with the regulation of pet stores and other animal related provisions but struck those concerning oversight of micro-wireless equipment and local labor laws.

The Ohio Chamber supported both the underlying bill, which provides regulatory consistency for pet stores, that was kept intact and the amendments added to the bill, including preemption of a number of local labor laws. The amendment was added in response to a growing number of local ballot issues and ordinances imposing employment-related mandates on private sector businesses. The added provisions preempted the patchwork of burdensome regulations. Specifically, local governments were prohibited form establishing a minimum wage that is higher than that required under Ohio’s constitution. It also gave clear authority to private employers to establish policies, whether on their own or through agreements with employees, concerning hours and location of work, scheduling, and fringe benefits, unless expressly provided for in state or federal law.

The minimum wage provisions were requested and supported by Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley and other Cleveland Leaders due to an impending ballot issue that would have raised the minimum wage there to $15 per hour. Further, other ballot issues filed in Cleveland, and even passed in Youngstown, would have required employers to: provide two weeks’ notice of work schedules; pay part-time employees the same hourly wage as full-time workers; give part-time workers the same benefits, such as paid personal days and vacation time as full-time workers; and provide the same pro-rated eligibility for other benefits.

This decision is obviously very problematic as fragmented local labor laws cause numerous legal and compliance problems for employers in Ohio. In addition to the actual cost of each law, such as the increased minimum wage or paid time off, these laws cause a regulatory nightmare for employers by having differing rules everywhere the business operates. We will be monitoring this case, any appeals, and any legislative action to further address these important issues.