Monday, May 4, 2009

Ohio Senate considers compensatory time – a sensible alternative to paid sick leave

As the number of reported swine flu cases approaches 1,000 globally (a staggeringly low 0.00002% of the world’s population), Judith Warner, in the April 30 New York Times, opines that the current pandemic is exactly what we need to spur this country to adopting national mandatory paid sick leave for employees:

Our workplace policies have long been unsuited for our times…. And they’ve never looked more anachronistic than today, with more and more families forced to live on one income, and a possible pandemic in the making.

The Healthy Families Act, which would grant most workers seven paid sick days a year to care for themselves or sick family members, is soon to be re-introduced in Congress. I think it’s fair to say that it’s an idea whose time has come.

Let me suggest a real alternative to mandating that all employers grant employees paid sick days. Under current federal and Ohio wage and hour laws, it is illegal for most employers to grant non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in a work week compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay. Ohio Senate Bill 17 seeks to change this prohibition.

Senate Bill 17 would amend Ohio’s current wage and hour laws to “afford to private sector employers the option to offer and to employees the option to accrue and use compensatory time off.” It would give employers the ability to offer employees the choice to take compensatory time (i.e., banked time-off to use in the future) instead of being paid an overtime premium for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week. Other notable feature of this legislation include:

  • An employer cannot require any employee to choose to receive compensatory time as a condition of employment, or require the use of any accrued compensatory time.
  • The employee must voluntarily request to receive compensatory time.
  • The request is not valid unless it is in writing or some other verifiable statement.
  • The employee can withdraw the request at any time.
  • Compensatory time accruals are capped at 240 hours per year.
  • At the end of each year, employees must be paid an overtime rate for any unused compensatory time.

Because this change would only affect Ohio’s wage and hour laws, it would only reach those employers small enough not to covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (generally those businesses with less than $500,000 in annual sales). This law would give those small businesses the ability to offer more flexible work schedules to retain or attract employees. This balanced law not only deserves serious consideration in Ohio’s legislature, but also on the federal level. If you are interested in voicing your support for this important piece of legislation, please call, write, or email your State Senator.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or

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