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Ohio employers must contend with an assortment of leave laws in addition to the federal FMLA and the ADA’s reasonable accommodations requirements for employees with disabilities.

While the ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, the Ohio Fair Employment Practices Act requires all employers with four or more employees to grant time off under its reasonable-accommodation provision.

Voting leave

Ohio employers must allow employees an opportunity to vote if their work schedules otherwise make it impossible to do so. The law requires employers to provide employees with a reasonable amount of time off to vote.

Tip: Consider including a voting-leave provision in your employee handbook. Establish a uniform policy that allows employees to vote while keeping workplace disruption to a minimum. Also, you can specify that employees must show proof of voter registration.

Beware: Employers face fines from $50 to $500 if they attempt to coerce workers not to vote, to vote a certain way or threaten firing or disciplinary action.

Jury and witness leave

In Ohio, it’s illegal for employers to punish employees who are called to jury service. However, the law entitles employers to receive prior notice of employees’ need for such leave.

While you needn’t pay employees for jury duty, you can’t force them to use their annual, vacation or sick leave while serving. Although you’re entitled to prior notice, the law is silent on how early an employee must inform you. So, it’s a good idea to include jury and witness leave in your company policies to clarify when and how employees should give notice.

Beware: Employers that punish employees for serving on a jury may find themselves hauled into court. Violators can be held in criminal contempt. And don’t even think about punishing an employee who takes witness leave: That’s a criminal misdemeanor, which could mean jail time.

Parental leave

Public employees in Ohio have enhanced parental leave options in addition to those required by the FMLA.

Most public employees are eligible for six weeks’ leave beginning the day their child is born or the day an adopted child is placed in the home (or, if already in the home, the day the adoption becomes official).

The first two weeks are unpaid leave; the last four weeks are paid provided the worker meets certain eligibility standards. The time off runs concurrently with any time taken under the FMLA.

Disaster leave

State employees who also serve as disaster service volunteers may take 30 days’ leave with pay to assist in disaster relief with the American Red Cross.

To qualify as paid leave, the Red Cross must request an employee’s services.
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Excerpted from Ohio’s 10 Most Critical Employment Laws, a special bonus report available to subscribers of HR Specialist: Ohio Employment Law.

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