Is Ohio a Right-to-Work State?

Kelly Hernandez
An image of the Ohio state flag.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The federal government allows states to independently decide if they want to follow right-to-work laws. There are several right-to-work states that enforce right-to-work laws. However, Ohio does not implement right-to-work legislation regarding unionized employers. As a worker in Ohio, you’re not protected by right-to-work laws but there are several other labor laws that ensure you’re safe from unfair treatment by your employer.

What Is Right to Work?

Right-to-work laws prohibit unionized employers from requiring their employees to be union members. If a state imposes the right-to-work law, employees who work for unionized employers may choose to pay union dues or not. They cannot be fired on the basis that they decided not to pay these dues and relinquish union membership.

While employees aren’t required to pay union dues or remain union members, they’re still treated as union members as long as they’re employed by the unionized employer. These employees aren’t required to pay dues for their union coverage but they may still need to pay for representation in a trial or for other services they receive from the union.

Is Ohio a Right-to-Work State?

Ohio is not a right-to-work state and does not implement these laws on unionized employers. Therefore, if you work for a unionized employer, you’re required to pay union dues and maintain your union membership. If you don’t continue paying dues and you’re no longer a member of the union, your employer may terminate your employment without legal ramifications.

Ohio At-Will Employment

The at-will employment law sounds similar to the right-to-work law, but these pieces of legislation refer to different labor issues. While the right-to-work law addresses labor unions and their relationship to employees, at-will employment laws refer to employee contracts and termination.

Employment at will means that an employee may quit a job at any time for any or no reason or explanation. It also means that an employer may terminate an employee at any time without warning or explanation. Ohio observes employment at will, so employees may leave their jobs at any time and employers may terminate employees at any time.

There are a few exceptions to at-will employment, including:

  • Employee contract: If there’s a signed contract, an employee must adhere to it and an employer cannot terminate the employee until the contract terms are completed.
  • Implied employee contract: An implied contract is one that’s not legally documented but was agreed upon between the employee and employer. If there’s an implied contract, it must be fulfilled by both parties.
  • Good faith and fair dealing: This exception states that an employer cannot terminate an employee simply to avoid paying for certain benefits or expenses, such as health insurance or a year-end performance bonus.
  • Public policy: When the public policy exception is enforced, employers can’t fire their employees if it violates public policy. Also, if the employee’s reason for resigning benefits the public, the employer must allow it. In Ohio, the public policy exception is not recognized.

When Can You Be Fired in Ohio?

Since Ohio observes employment at-will laws, it may seem that you could be fired at any time. However, most employers have disciplinary systems in place that include verbal and written warnings for employees who are failing to perform to their standards. In these cases, you may receive warnings before you’re terminated. Some common reasons for termination include the following:

  • Poor performance and the inability to meet certain performance-related goals.
  • Misconduct, such as stealing or disobedience.
  • Tardiness or not working all of your assigned hours.
  • Downsizing or the elimination of your position.
  • Your employer is going out of business.

If you’re terminated, your employer may provide you with severance pay, depending on the circumstances.

Other Ohio Labor Laws

While Ohio doesn’t observe right-to-work laws, the state imposes other legislation meant to protect the rights of workers.

Ohio State Minimum Wage

The Ohio state minimum wage is $8.70 per hour for most workers. Some exceptions to the minimum wage law include employees working for family members, tipped workers, volunteers, or workers who are under 16 years of age.


Ohio overtime labor laws

 require employers to pay overtime to employees who work more than 40 hours in one workweek. These additional hours must be paid at one and half times the employee’s regular hourly wage.

Meals and Breaks

There are currently no Ohio labor laws that require employers to provide lunch breaks or other breaks for employees. However, employers that do provide breaks that are 15 minutes or less are required to continue paying employees during these short breaks. Working minors must have meal breaks during full-time work shifts.

Ohio State Discrimination and Harassment Law

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission administers the Ohio State Discrimination and Harassment Law. It prohibits employers from treating employees differently based on their religion, gender, race, nationality, or due to a physical or mental disability. This law is enforced while hiring and onboarding, during employment, and throughout the termination process.

Child Labor Laws

Workers under the age of 18 are protected by Ohio Minor Labor Laws. These laws restrict the working hours minors can engage in, especially during school days and on school nights. Child labor laws also prohibit minors from performing dangerous jobs, such as transportation or outside window washing.

State Civil Rights Laws

Civil rights laws protect workers in Ohio against employer discrimination. This may include unfair treatment or wrongful termination based on race, religion, or disability. Any person with four or more employees or a business who is responsible for the wellbeing of an employee must adhere to civil rights laws.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Federal pregnancy discrimination laws

 are enforced in Ohio and prohibit an employer from refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. These may include less physical duties or reasonable requests for schedule changes. Employers cannot treat pregnant workers unfairly or wrongfully terminate them due to their medical condition.

Unemployment Laws

Unemployment insurance benefits are provided to eligible unemployed workers through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Financial compensation is distributed based on a worker’s previous earnings. To continue receiving benefits, the claimant must actively search for work and accept suitable job offers.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Employers are required to carry adequate workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees who are injured on the job. Employees who are injured while working may file claims through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to receive financial assistance for medical expenses and while they’re out of work.

While Ohio is not a right-to-work state and upholds employment at will, there is legislation in place to protect workers. Civil rights laws and child labor laws ensure workers are treated fairly by employers and that they aren’t wrongfully terminated.

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