Ohio Healthy Families Act FAQs

By Neil Klingshirn


What is the Ohio Healthy Families Act?

The Ohio Healthy Families Act was a proposed ballot issue for Ohio’s November 4, 2008 general election. After obtaining enough signatures to place it on the ballot, it’s main proponent, labor unions in Ohio, decided to pull the Ohio Healthy Families’ Act from the November, 2008 ballot. 

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What would the proposed ballot issue have required if it passed?

If the Ohio Healthy Ballot’s Act had remained on the general election ballot and passed, it would have required Ohio employers to provide paid sick days to their employees.

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Is that the same thing that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires for larger employers?

Not exactly.  The FMLA requires employers to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work and to restore them to their job when they return. The FMLA does not require employer to pay employees when they are away from work.

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Who would have received paid sick days under the Healthy Families Act?

Employees who work for an Ohio employer who employ 25 or more employees (including part time employees).

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How many days of paid sick leave would these employees have received?

Employers covered by the Healthy Families Act would have had to provide employees who work 30 or more hours each week with at least 7 paid sick days each year. Employees who worked fewer hours will receive a pro rata number of paid sick days.

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When would employees have been able to use paid sick leave?

Employees would have accrued paid sick days monthly, beginning with the start of their employment. New employees could not take paid sick leave until after they had been employed for at least 90 days, however.

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What would happen to an employee’s paid sick leave if the employee did not use it up during the year?

The Ohio Healthy Families Act would have required the employer to allow the employee to carry unused, accrued paid sick days from one year to the next.

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Could employees have used less than a full paid sick day at one time?

The Ohio Healthy Families Act would have allowed employees to use paid sick leave in increments of an hour or less.

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When would an employee have been able to use paid sick leave?

The Ohio Healthy Families Act would have allowed an employee to use paid sick leave for:

   1. An absence resulting from a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition of the employee;
   2. An absence resulting from obtaining professional medical diagnosis or care, or preventive medical care, for the employee;
   3. An absence for the purpose of caring for a child, parent, or a spouse, who has any of the conditions or needs diagnosis or care described in paragraphs (1) or (2) above.

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How would the Ohio Healthy Families Act have affected existing paid leave and vacation policies?

If an employer provides paid leave at least equal to the sick leave provided by the Healthy Families Act, the Healthy Families Act would not affect the existing paid leave policy. However, an employer could not eliminate or reduce leave in existence on the date of enactment of the Healthy Families Act, regardless of the type of such leave, in order to provide paid sick days required by the Act.

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What does that mean? Would an employer have had to provide paid sick days in addition to paid vacation now?

An employer would have been able to convert paid vacation into paid sick time, and therefore not have to provide additional paid sick days, but only if it did so before the Healthy Families Act went into effect.

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Would employees have had to give notice to the employer before using a paid sick day?

The Healthy Families Act would require employees to make reasonable efforts to schedule leave in a manner that did not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.

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What medical certification, if any, were required by the Healthy Families Act?

An employer could require a medical certification only if the leave period covered more than three (3) consecutive work days. Employees would have had to provide certification in a timely manner, but no later than thirty (30) days after the first day of leave.

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Did the Healthy Families Act require employers to keep records?

The Act said that, if the employer received any health information regarding an employee, employee’s child, parent, or spouse, the employer had to:

   1. Maintain that information on a separate form and in a separate file from other personnel information;
   2. Treat it as confidential medical records; and
   3. Not disclose it except to the affected employee or with the express permission of the affected employee.

Second, an employer had to retain records documenting hours worked by employees and paid sick leave taken by employees for a period of three (3) years.

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What rights would the Act have given an employee if an employer does not allow him or her to use available paid sick days?

The Healthy Families Act would have prohibited employers from:

   1. Denying paid time off;
   2. Discharging or otherwise retaliating against the employee for using paid sick days;
   3. Counting the use of paid time off under a no fault attendance policy; or
   4. Using paid sick leave as a negative factor in an employment decision, such as discharge or     disciplinary action.

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What would have happened if an employer denied paid time off?

The Healthy Families Act would have allowed an employee to file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Commerce. The employee or the Ohio Attorney General’s office would also have been able to file a civil suit against the employer for violating the Act.

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What would have happened if an employee proved that an employer violated the Act?

The Healthy Families Act stated that the employer would be liable for damages equal to:

    The amount of:

       1. Any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost to such employee by reason of the violation; or
       2. In cases in which wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation has not been denied or lost to such employee, any actual monetary losses sustained by the employee as a direct result of the violation up to a sum equal to ten (10) days of wages or salary for the employee;
       3. interest on the lost wages and benefits or actual monetary losses;
       4. An additional amount as treble damages;
       5. R easonable attorney fees; and

    Employment, reinstatement and promotion, as appropriate.

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Why did the sponsor of the Ohio Healthy Families’ Act pull the issue from the November, 2008 general election ballot?

It is not entirely clear why the sponsors pulled the ballot measure, since polling data done at the time showed that a large majority of Ohio voters supported it. However, Ohio would have been the only state in the country requiring this particular benefit.  As a result, Ohio’s governor, who otherwise supports workers rights, announced that he was unable to support the ballot measure. Also, many legal commentators pointed to several provisions of the Act as unduly complicated.

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Since the Ohio Healthy Families Act never became law, why does it have any relevance to employment law?

The proponents of the Healthy Families Act did not waver in their belief that paid days off are an important worker right in a developed country.  As a result, it is possible and perhaps likely that similar legislation will be introduced at the national level. In that case, the Ohio Healthy Families Act, or portions of it, will probably be considered a model for such legislation.

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Have an Employment Law question?

Contact Neil Klingshirn

Neil Klingshirn
AV rated Super Lawyer and Employment Law Specialist
Independence, OH
Phone: 216-382-2500