What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Ohio?

Learn how much you might receive in unpaid wages and penalties from your employer.

Has your employer failed to pay you minimum wage or overtime or failed to give you meal breaks? If so, you may be able to recover unpaid wages from your employer, as well as a monetary penalty. Below, we explain common wage violations in Ohio, how to calculate your unpaid wages, and how to pursue your wage claim.

Unpaid Minimum Wage

As of 2018, Ohio’s minimum wage is $8.30 per hour for most employees. However, employees of small employers—those with less $305,000 in gross annual revenue—are entitled to only $7.25 per hour. Ohio does not allow cities to set higher minimum wages. (Different minimum wages apply to tipped employees. To learn more, see our article on how tipped employees are paid in Ohio.)

If you didn’t receive the minimum wage, you can collect unpaid wages from your employer. To calculate the amount due, take the difference between your hourly rate and the minimum wage. Then, multiply that amount by the number of hours worked. For example, if your employer paid you $1 less than the minimum wage for 40 hours of work, you would be entitled to $40 extra per week.

Unpaid Overtime

Consistent with federal law, Ohio employers must pay employees time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a work week. (Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. To learn more, see our article explaining the white-collar exemptions.)

If you didn’t receive the overtime rate, you can collect 50% of your regular rate per hour. For example, suppose you worked 50 hours during the week but only received your regular hourly rate of $10 per hour (for a total of $500). The last ten of your hours should have been paid at the overtime rate of $15 per hour. So you should receive the difference of $5 per hour ($15 - $10) for ten hours, for a total of $50 extra per week.

Meals and Rest Breaks

Unlike some other states, Ohio does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks to employees. Federal law does not require either type of break either. (For more information, see our article on Ohio meal and rest breaks.)

However, if an employer chooses to provide breaks, federal law requires that all breaks of 20 minutes or less be paid. And, if you’re required to do any work—even sitting at your desk to wait for a phone call or delivery—you must be paid for that time.

To calculate your unpaid wages, add up:

  • any meal periods that you were required to work through, and
  • any breaks of 20 minutes or less, whether you worked through them or not.

This time counts are hours worked, for which you must be paid. If the additional time results in overtime, you must be compensated at your overtime rate.

Other Common Wage Violations in Ohio

Ohio employers must also follow several other wage and hour requirements under federal and state law. Here are some other common wage violations by employers:

  • failure to pay sick pay, holiday pay, or vacation pay, as promised by the employer
  • failure to pay earned bonuses or commissions
  • unauthorized deductions from wages, and
  • failure to provide a final paycheck on time.

Penalties for Wage Violations in Ohio

In Ohio, employees with minimum wage or overtime claims can collect an additional sum called “liquidated damages” under federal law. You can collect 100% of your unpaid wages as liquidated damages. For example, if you are owed $1,200 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime, you can collect another $1,200 in liquidated damages, for a total of $2,400.

In Ohio, wages must be paid on a semi-monthly basis. If any wages are more than 30 days past due, you can collect 6% of the unpaid wages, or $200, whichever is greater—unless there is a good faith dispute between you and your employer as to whether the wages are actually owed.

In some cases, you can also collect attorneys’ fees and legal costs from your employer if you win your case.

Filing a Claim for Unpaid Wages in Ohio

The quickest and easiest way to recover unpaid wages is typically to file a wage claim with the Ohio Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration. The Bureau handles violations of laws on minimum wage, overtime, unauthorized deductions, and final paychecks. To start your claim, you must complete a Wage Complaint and file it with the Bureau. The Bureau will investigate your claim and help you recover any wages that are owed.

Alternatively, you may file a lawsuit in court to collect your unpaid wages. However, filing in court is a much more complicated process. Unless you have a very small and simple claim, you should consider hiring an employment lawyer. You can also hire a lawyer to represent you before the Bureau.

You generally have two years to collect unpaid minimum wages or overtime from your employer under state and federal law. However, it’s best to file your claim as soon as possible, so that you have access to documents or witnesses you need to prove your claim.

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