During the fall of 2018, when the wage and hour attorneys with Coffman Legal received this most basic question from a client with a potential unpaid wages case, Ohio required all employers in the state to pay their workers at least $8.30/hour.
The $8.30/hour minimum wage applied to nearly all part-time, full-time and temporary/seasonal workers who were older than 16 years of age. The primary exception to this legal obligation involved employees who regularly receive tips.
Tipped employees in Ohio, such as waiters and waitresses, bartenders, and professional dogwalkers, could legally receive a wage of $4.15/hour. However, the tips those employees earned had to cover at least the other $4.15 they would have received if they were paid a straight wage. Meeting this legal requirement would require an employer to make up the difference if, say, a waitress earned just $56.40 total (base wage plus tips) after working an 8-hour shift. The minimum wage for a full workday is currently $66.40 ($8.30 x 8), so the restaurant would have to cover the $10 the waitress did not earn in tips. If the employer failed to pay the additional makeup pay, then the employer violated the FLSA (federal law) and Ohio law. Is It Illegal to Pay an Employee Less Than Minimum Wage in Ohio
Note that employers are not allowed to make employees give managers all the tip money they earn past the amount needed to make up the difference between the regular minimum wage and tipped wage. Taking away all of an employee’s tips is called wage theft, and it is a serious crime.
Exemptions to the Minimum Wage
Ohio allows very small businesses — defined as those with gross annual incomes of less than $299,000 — to pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Other employees who can legally receive less than $8.30/hour include
- Freelancers and contractors who do not qualify as employees of their clients or contracting firms
- Live-in caregivers for children and adults as long as those caregivers’ job responsibilities do not include housework
- Salespeople who call on clients and receive commissions
- Family members who work for their own families’ businesses
- Individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities who cannot find employment except at reduced wages
Note that an employee is generally defined as a person who works at a site owned or managed by the organization that pays them, and who receives the equipment, instructions, and support needed to do their work from the organization that pays them.
What if I Am Eligible for the Minimum Wage in Ohio But My Employer Pays Me Less Than That?
If your employer shorts you on pay more than once and the problem is not corrected as soon as you ask your employer about it, you have a strong case for pursuing a lawsuit. Speaking with experienced minimum wages attorneys will help you gather and submit the appropriate evidence that your employer is cheating you out of the money you earned.
Understand, too, that a manager or business owner who refuses to pay you the minimum wage may also be cheating many or most of your co-workers. As a result, you may be able to take legal action on behalf of all aggrieved employees.
Employees who win unpaid wage cases can receive back pay with additional monetary damages, attorney’s fees, costs and expenses, and orders from the court for the employer to prove that it is no longer violating workers’ rights regarding fair pay. Winning an unpaid wages case also protects future workers from an employer who tries to deny people the money they have earned.
You can schedule a confidential, no-cost confidential consultation with Coffman Legal employment attorneys by calling (614) 949-1181 or by completing this online contact form. We handle cases involving unpaid wages, discrimination against employees and job applicants, workplace harassment, wrongful termination, and workplace retaliation.