Ohio Minimum Wage Law FAQs by My Employment Lawyer

By Neil Klingshirn


What is Ohio’s constitutional minium wage?

Ohio voters amended Ohio’s constitution in 2006 to require employers to pay a minimum wage of $6.85 per hour, indexed to inflation.

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I thought Ohio had a minimum wage law on the books before 2006.

That is correct. However, the amount of the minimum wage had been stuck far lower than the federal minimum wage in 2006, and workers advocates argued that even the federal minimum wage was too low at the time. Therefore, they put an issue on the ballot for a new, higher minimum wage, and it passed.

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So Ohio has two minimum wage laws?

Three, actually, because the Ohio General Assembly enacted “enabling legislation” that is slightly different from the Constitutional amendment, but more on that later. 

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How much is the minimum wage?

It was $6.85 when adopted in 2006.  As a result of inflation, it is $7.30 in 2010.

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Will the new minimum wage go up in the future?

Yes. Each year the constitutional minimum wage will increase by the rate of inflation for the prior 12 months.

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Why is it significant that this minimum wage is “constitutional”?

The constitution is the highest law in the land. In a conflict with a state or local law, a court must apply the constitutional law. By design, constitutions are difficult to amend. Therefore, Ohio has a minimum wage that the governor and general assembly could not change, even if they wanted to do so.

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Why would anyone want to change the minimum wage law?

Small businesses and free market advocates prefer to let the market set the price for minimum wage labor. Economic development experts might also worry that the automatically increasing minimum wage will put Ohio at a price disadvantage for minimum wage labor. Small businesses and a healthy tax base depend to some extent on an available minimum wage labor pool.

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Are all employees in Ohio entitled to the constitutional minimum wage, or just some?

Ohio’s minimum wage covers almost everyone. The exceptions include employees under the age of 16 and employees of small businesses (less than $267,000 in annual gross revenues in 2009). However, these employees are entitled to the federal minimum wage.

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Who else is excluded from Ohio’s constitutional minimum wage?

This is a partial, but nearly complete list of exemptions:

  • Employers can pay “tipped” employees (i.e., employees who receive tips as part of their pay) as little as one half of the new minimum wage, so long as tips make up the other half.
  • Family owned businesses do not have to pay the new Ohio minimum wage to their own family members;
  • Employees who work “in or about the property of the employer or an individual’s residence on a casual basis” are not covered by the new minimum wage law.
  • individuals who have a disability that affects their opportunity for employment may receive less, if the state of Ohio permits.

The Ohio Department of Commerce has a poster with its complete list of exemptions. Agricultural, home health and amusement park workers are not on it.

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Does the minimum wage cover public employers as well as private employers?

Yes. Every political subdivision (counties, cities, townships, school districts and other governmental authorities) and the State of Ohio  are covered.

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What records must employers keep to comply with the constitutional minimum wage?

Ohio employers must keep for three years after each employee’s last day of work a record of the employee’s:

  • Name;
  • Address:
  • Occupation;
  • Pay rate;
  • Hours worked for each day worked and
  • Each amount paid an employee.

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Who is entitled to see these records?

The employer must provide the information without charge to the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee upon request. In other words, if an employee’s lawyer asks for the information, the employer must provide it.

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How tough are the enforcement rules for Ohio’s new minimum wage law?

Very tough. Employers who fail to comply with the new minimum wage law face:

  1. Complaints by employees, persons acting on their behalf and/or any other interested party to the State of Ohio. Under the new minimum wage law, Ohio must promptly investigate and resolve the complaint.
  2. Investigations by the State of Ohio on its own initiative. Employers must provide the State of Ohio with any records related to the investigation and other information requested by Ohio; and
  3. Lawsuits by the State of Ohio, an employee or persons acting on behalf of an employee or all similarly situated employees.

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Who is an “interested party” that can make a complaint to the State of Ohio?

That is not entirely clear. The authors of the constitutional amendment probably intended to allow unions to file such suits.  However, “implementing” legislation enacted by a business oriented legislature limits the term to a party alleging an actual injury by the violation. That would limit the term’s application to the employee owed the wage. This could put the implementing legislation in conflict with the constitutional language. In that case, the constitutional law would overrule the state law.

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What is the statute of limitations for an Ohio minimum wage lawsuit?

You must file a lawsuit within three years of the violation or when the violation ceased, if it was a continuing violation.

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Where should I file suit?

In the county where you reside or, in an action involving similarly situated employees, the county where at least one of you resides.

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Do I have to wait for the State of Ohio to do an investigation first?


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What can I recover if I win an Ohio minimum wage lawsuit?

When an employer is found by the State of Ohio or a court to have violated Ohio’s new minimum wage law, it must, within 30 days of the finding:

  • Pay the employee’s back wages;
  • Pay damages equal to an additional two times the back wages;
  • Pay the employee’s costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.   

In other words, an employer will have to pay three times the unpaid minimum wages, plus the employees’ attorneys’ fees.

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Does the new minimum wage law prohibit retaliation against employees who assert their rights?

Yes. It also prohibits employer retaliation against people who provide assistance to employees asserting their rights. Employers who retaliate must pay an amount “sufficient to compensate the employee and deter future violations,” which amount is not less than $150 for each day that the violation continued, presumably after the employee or other person asserted their rights. The requirement to compensate retaliation victims in an amount sufficient to deter future violations is basically an automatic punitive damages requirement.

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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