When it comes to employment law, Ohio is not as progressive as many other states, and it sometimes takes several years for change to come to Ohio. While this is not always ideal for employees, it has an advantage for employers, who can get a feel for which trends are emerging before they are legally mandated here. Progressive employers may want to watch the following employment law developments from other states and revisit their own policies to stay ahead of the curve in 2020:
1. Sexual Harassment Training. While federal law and nearly every state ban sexual harassment in the workplace, there has rarely been a great deal of guidance on how employers have to enforce that ban. However, several states have enacted, or are in the process of enacting, annual sexual harassment training requirements with mandatory curriculum. Although Ohio does not currently require sexual harassment training, progressive employers may see multiple benefits from such training, ranging from a safer workplace with fewer incidents of harassment, to a stronger defense to sexual harassment claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the courts.
2. Increased Protections for LGBT Employees. Federal anti-discrimination laws currently do not explicitly protect employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, although LGBT advocacy groups are challenging those laws in the courts. Several states and municipalities around the country have attempted to supplement federal law by enacting laws to protect LGBT employees. While several Ohio cities, including Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton, have enacted such laws, Ohio has failed to do so on a statewide level. However, employers who want to ensure that all of their employees are treated fairly and respectfully may review their policies and ensure that their equal opportunity and anti-discrimination and harassment policies protect LGBT employees, regardless of whether those protections are currently required by state or federal law.
3. Evolving Marijuana Laws. States’ laws on recreational marijuana use are evolving. Several states have decriminalized or even fully legalized recreational marijuana use, and Michigan became Ohio’s first neighboring state to legalize recreational marijuana. Employers in states with legal recreational marijuana are generally still allowed by law to enforce zero-tolerance drug policies. However, many employers have decided to treat marijuana more like alcohol, where they do not prohibit off-duty, off-premises use as long as employees are not under the influence at work and do not possess, use, or transfer marijuana in the workplace. While it will take time, many believe Ohio will ultimately consider legalizing marijuana, and employers may want to consider their stance on employee off-duty use before any such law is enacted.
4. Fights for Higher Minimum Wages. Ohio’s minimum wage is currently $8.70 per hour. While this is substantially less than Washington’s $13.50 per hour minimum wage, it is still more than Indiana’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, and it falls somewhat in the middle nationally. Worker advocates around the country have aggressively campaigned for a nationwide $15.00 minimum wage. While such a wage makes far more sense in expensive urban markets than in rural communities, and seems unlikely to pass on a national level anytime soon, there is an increasing trend of minimum wages rising. Ohio municipalities are prohibited from enacting minimum wages higher than the state rate. However, employers in cities with higher costs of living may want to consider whether their minimum-wage-earning employees are being adequately paid to perform their duties.
There is nothing wrong with employers going above and beyond what Ohio’s laws require them to do, and progressive employers may find they have happier and more productive employees than those employers who only do the bare minimum for their workers. Contact your employment lawyer if you believe your employment policies could use an update.
This article should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.
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