In the majority of circumstances, it is illegal to pay less than minimum wage to workers in Ohio. State law and federal rules enforced under the Fair Labor Standards Act do list some exemptions from Ohio’s minimum wage requirement, but those are either obvious or apply only rarely. The exemptions that apply most broadly involve people who can only be covered by the federal minimum wage law or who, when paid a fair salary, would already earn well in excess of the minimum wage.
During 2019, Ohio law mandated a $8.55/hour minimum wage for most workers.
Employees such as waitstaff and bartenders who regularly receive tips could be paid $4.30/hour. That is only half the story, though. Employers who pay the tipped wage have legal duties to ensure that the tips bring employees’ hourly earnings up to at least $8.55. Importantly, employers are not allowed to take away employees’ tips so that they end up making only the minimum wage.
According to the state Department of Commerce, the following workers are not covered by the Ohio minimum wage law:
Freelancers and contractors who provide personal or professional services that are not related to construction or maintenance are also exempt from Ohio’s minimum wage law. Building and maintenance tradespeople are covered by Ohio’s prevailing wage law. Freelancers and professional contract workers are not considered employees for wage-paying purposes.
Saying that is it illegal to pay less than minimum wage to most workers does not actually accomplish much. Some employers will persist in seizing tips, misclassifying employees as professionals or contractors, or using any other number of tricks to get out of paying people what the law requires.
Employees have undeniable legal rights to file lawsuits for minimum wage violations and to hire employee rights attorneys while doing so. Partnering with a lawyer will help an unfairly paid employee identify and access the records that are needed to prove that a minimum wage violation occurred. Enlisting the advice and representation of an attorney can also protect an employee from retaliation and help an employee figure out if his or her co-workers were also cheated out of earning the minimum wage.
Succeeding with a minimum wage lawsuit can result in awards of back pay with interest and other monetary damages, as well as court orders for the defendant employer to document improvements in pay practices. If you believe your employer is violating your right to receive the minimum wage in Ohio, consider reaching out to The Friedmann Firm. We take appointments online, and every initial consultation is free and confidential. You can also call us at (614) 610-9755.