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Bill aims to tighten up Ohio's overtime policy, cutting employer costs

remote working
Posted at 9:51 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 09:53:13-05

CLEVELAND — Have you ever found yourself distracted by work during your personal downtime?

If you spend a few minutes answering emails after work hours every day, it can add up.

But do you add it to your timesheet? Ohio lawmakers are looking to clarify whether you’re allowed to.

Those in support of Senate Bill 47 say it would give employers clarity and protection from lawsuits as more people are working from their homes unsupervised. Republican Sen. Bob Peterson, who sponsored the bill, says it’s time to look at what counts as paid time on the job and how much of that time is too little to get paid for.

Peterson says the bill was brought up thanks to technology and our reliance on those like smartphones. He notes a lot of us find ourselves drawn to work affairs for a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

"Those little increments of time might be able to be used, and you might say to your employer, you owe me for this time,” said Peterson. "We're just clarifying what would count and what would not.

But not everyone looks at it that way.

"It could be used against workers for things like getting ready to go do their job," said Democratic Sen. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood.

Antonio worries employers could exploit the legislation to nickel and dime their employees. She noted healthcare workers as an example of those who need to do a lot of prep work before they start their job in earnest.

"It takes quite a bit of time even for frontline medical workers just to suit up."

Peterson says this isn't about taking away anyone's overtime. He says the idea is just to make things more clear for employers, especially small businesses. Though, he says courts have already ruled you should be paid if you work an hour, but and that several minutes is too insignificant to count toward your time card.

So where do we draw the line?

"Courts will be involved in some of that,” Peterson said.

For Antonio, SB 47 isn't necessary. She says it all comes down to trust.

"At the end of the day it's not minute to minute what in the world are you doing, it's did you get the job done?"

Right now the legislation is in committee.

Peterson says he and his co-sponsor are open to answering questions and addressing concerns of the bill possibly threatening overtime pay in Ohio.