Hamilton Journal News
Bill would curb OT of those who answer work emails after hours
Ohioans who answer work emails from their beds or the sidelines at their kids’ soccer games could be blocked from claiming those minutes as overtime if a bill introduced in the state Senate becomes law.
Supporters say Senate Bill 47 would give employers clarity and protection from lawsuits in this new COVID-19 world where thousands of people work unsupervised from home. Opponents say federal labor laws provide adequate protection, and these new rules could create a system that harms hourly employees.
“The idea behind this is to get everybody on the same page so they know when the employee is actually working,” Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, said.
If passed, the bill would exempt Ohio employers from paying overtime when employees travel to and from work and for “activities requiring insubstantial or insignificant periods of time beyond the employee’s scheduled working hours.”
A quick glance through your phone while waiting in the car for groceries isn’t billable hours, Brenner said. “The idea behind this is to say look, if you are doing that on your own time and you don’t have this spelled out in your contract, you’re on your own.”
That’s fine, Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said. An occasional, clarifying text to a boss after hours doesn’t have to count as overtime work. What bothers her is how all those little moments add up over the course of a year and how an employer might exploit Brenner’s bright line to his or her advantage.
“We wouldn’t have these rules about overtime if employers hadn’t blatantly disregarded common practice,” Antonio said. “I just think this bill is unnecessary.”
What counts as work?
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act says an employer who “suffers or permits” work outside scheduled hours can be forced to count those hours even if he or she did not directly order it.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Anderson v. Mt. Clemons Pottery Co. that
“when the matter in issue concerns only seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded.”
The 1946 ruling called that amount of work “de minimis,” meaning too trivial or minor to matter. The challenge since then has been to define what crosses the de minimis line in a world where smartphones can tether employees to their jobs from anywhere on the planet.
A Center for Creative Leadership survey back in 2012 found 60% of people who used smartphones for work were already keeping in touch with their office 13.5 hours per day and another five hours each weekend.
Another survey by the American Psychological Association found 44% checked worked email daily while on vacation and 10% checked in hourly.
Ten minutes of extra work a day adds up to more than 41 hours in an average work year.
France enacted a law in 2017 to stop the “explosion of undeclared labor” that forced companies with more than 50 employees to negotiate and define outof-office email rules. Some firms, according to CNN, went so far as to shut down their email servers overnight.
“Work should be defined based on the task being done not on an arbitrary amount of time,” said Bob DeRose, a labor attorney and former President of the Ohio Association for Justice (a nonprofit focused on trial rights).
He’s neutral on the bill, but DeRose did oppose the previous version Brenner tried and failed to pass during the last General Assembly. He said he appreciated all the work both Brenner and co-sponsor Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Washington Courthouse, had put into improving its language. But he still harbored some reservations about how companies would interpret “insubstantial or insignificant periods of time.”
“If what they are doing isn’t related to their work, then they could do it for hours and not be paid,” DeRose said. “But if a person is doing something related to their job, then they should be paid — even if it’s four minutes.”
Charles R. Hiles, age 88, passed away peacefully February 20, 2021, after fighting cancer, heart attacks, strokes, dementia and COVID-19. He was born in Hamilton, Ohio, son of Ray and Virginia Hiles. In 1956 he married the love of his life, Lois (Hank) Hiles and they raised their family-Gretchen (Jack) Niebling, Scott Hiles (who died in 2012) and Seth Israel-Hiles. He has three granddaughters, Beth (BJ) Sander, Erin (Justin) Pauley and Jessica Israel-Hiles along with four greatgrandchildren, Kelsey Sander, Leah Sander, Hunter Pauley and Paige Pauley. He has many extended family members including Barbara (Russell) Casper and Sandra Hank; nieces, nephews, cousins as well as many dear friends. He worked at Baldwin Lima Hamilton, Shuler and Benninghofen, Hank’s Reading Hardware and Hamilton Die Cast during his working years. He enjoyed gardening, fishing and his family. He had a great sense of humor. He loved watching all the kids and their activities. He was a member of Zion Lutheran Church, Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Hugh Bates Masonic Lodge #686 F+AM for many years.
Cards may be sent to the family, c/o 12050 Montgomery Road #106, Cincinnati, OH 45249.
Memorials may be made to St. Vivian School, 885 Denier Place, Cincinnati, OH 45224.
Age 82, of Middletown, Ohio, passed away February 23, 2021, at Hawthorne Glen where he had been a patient for a short time. He was born in New York City, New York, and a resident of Middletown, for several years. He had been a Minister with the Church of Christ, and also a Salesman for Guyler Buick. Paul was preceded in death by his wife, Joan. Graveside Services will be Monday, March 8, 2021, at 2:00 p.m. at North Monroe Cemetery, Monroe, Ohio, with Dr. Dan Flory officiating, followed by interment. Arrangements by Herr-Riggs Funeral Home, 210 S. Main St., Middletown. Condolences may be sent to www.herr-riggs.com.
Age 87 of Hamilton, passed away on Thursday, February
25, 2021. Charles was born in
Hamilton, Ohio, on May 11,
1933, to the late Archie and
Bertha (Creech) Payne. Charles served in the U.S. Air Force and retired from Armco Steel. He was a member of the VFW,
AMVETS, American Legion, and the Trenton Moose Lodge
#330. He enjoyed fishing, golfing, and traveling with his wife. Most of all, Charles enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. Charles is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Patricia (Leyman) Payne; his children, William (Victoria) Payne, Pamela (Mike) Bosley, Archie (Sandy) Payne, Charlie (Michelle) Payne and Lavonne (Steve) Bond; 23 grandchildren; 33 great-grandchildren; 8 great-great-grandchildren; his sister, Ethel Bell; his brother, Darrell (Lenora) Payne; his brother-in-law, Michael Leyman; as well as many extended family members and close friends. Charles was preceded in death by his daughter, Charlene Michelle Martin; and son, Charles "Chuck" William Payne, II. Family and friends are invited to celebrate Charles’ life on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, from 4:00 PM until the time of his Prayer Service at 6:00 PM at Brown Dawson Flick Funeral Home, 1350 Millville Ave, Hamilton, Ohio. Online condolences may be made at