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Right to Work
Is Ohio a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Ohio.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Ohio a right to work state?

Ohio is not a right-to-work state. In fact, it is surrounded by right-to-work states on every border except for one.

“We are not a 'right to work' state; we don’t intend to be, at least as long as I’m here," Gov. John Kasich said as he opened the Midwestern Governors Association workforce summit in 2018, according to WOSU Radio. "But I’m only here four more months. But I didn’t see it as any kind of advantage at all. And I hope we can maintain the integrity and respect our organized labor in our state."

Despite its surroundings, Ohio is outperforming many of its right-to-work neighbors in terms of how much employees are earning and union membership, even though it's falling behind in regards to employment rates in comparison to right-to-work states.

A 2017 study conducted by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign compared three Midwest right-to-work states (Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana) with three non-right-to-work states in the Midwest (Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota). And the researchers found the following results, on average:

  • The three right-to-work states earned eight percent less per hour than the three non-right-to-work states.
  • 11.5 percent of employees were union members in right-to-work states, while 13.7 percent of employees were union members in non-right-to-work states.
  • Unemployment rates were lower in right-to-work states.

So while Ohio is not a right-to-work state at the moment, there's valid reason for it to consider the law.

Can you be fired for any reason in Ohio?

Ohio is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Again, proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Ohio labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Ohio of which you should be aware.

1. Overtime

Ohio labor laws require an employer to pay overtime to employees, unless otherwise exempt, according to the Employment Law Handbook.

Specifically, the law reads that "an employer shall pay an employee for overtime at a wage rate of one and one-half times the employee's wage rate for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in one workweek." 

2. Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Ohio currently stands at $8.15 an hour, which is significantly higher than the federally mandated minimum wage of just $7.25 per hour, if the employer's gross receipts exceed $314,000 per year, according to the Employment Law Handbook. If an employer's annual revenue is below the set $314,000 threshold, however, then that employer is indeed legally allowed to adopt the federal standard and, thus, pay their employees the federally mandated hourly wage that's as low as $7.25 per hour.

3. Meals and Breaks

"Ohio labor laws require employers to provide employees under the age of 18 a 30-minute uninterrupted break when working more than five consecutive hours," according to the Employment Law Handbook. "Ohio does not require employers to provide breaks, including lunch breaks, for workers 18 years old or older. An employer who chooses to provide a break in excess of 20 minutes does not have to pay wages for lunch periods or other breaks if the employee is free to leave the worksite, in fact takes their lunch or break, and the employee does not actually perform work. According to federal law, breaks 20 minutes or shorter typically must be paid."

What are some resources for Ohio employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Ohio, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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