Ohio State COVID-19 FAQs
As Ohio re-opens and businesses restore or start planning to restore operations, we at Paychex remain dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. Please see below for guidance and best practices around some common questions related to these new challenges for Ohio.
What are the eligibility requirements for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Ohio?
Although specific eligibility requirements may vary by state, employees in Ohio generally qualify if they:
- Are totally or partially unemployed (which may include layoffs and reductions in hours/wages);
- Lost their job through no fault of their own (e.g. did not quit or were not terminated without just cause as defined by OH law);
- Have worked at least 20 weeks in covered employment in a “base period.” A “base period” is a minimum amount of wages earned in what is called the "base period," which is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before benefit account begins;
- At the time of application, are physically and mentally able and available to work and is actively seeking suitable work, unless otherwise exempt from this requirement.
For more information on eligibility requirements, how to apply for, and how to file a claim for Unemployment Insurance, please visit the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Resource Page or explore the ODJFS Office of Unemployment Insurance Operations website.
If an employee’s hours are reduced and their state unemployment is adjusted, will they still be eligible for the full $600 federal unemployment payment?
If an employee’s hours are reduced and/or their state unemployment insurance amount is adjusted (but not completely canceled), they may still be eligible for the additional financial support under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program (FPUC). Under the FPUC, eligible individuals can receive an extra $600 per week that is paid in addition to any unemployment assistance that they already receive from their applicable state agency, regardless of the amount paid under state UI. Despite this, state-awarded unemployment insurance eligibility and specific assistance amounts are determined on a case-by-case basis.
For more information, please visit the ODJFS Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Resource Page, explore the ODJFS Office of Unemployment Insurance Operations website, or review the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak website.
Employee Safety & Concerns
As an employer, how can I handle an employee who refuses to follow company COVID-19 safety policies such as wearing a face mask/covering, washing their hands, or practicing social distancing while at work?
Before taking any action, it’s important to engage with your employees to understand why they may be refusing to follow mandated safety policies. For example, an employee’s refusal to wear a face mask/covering while in the workplace due to medical a condition and/or religious accommodation may make them eligible for an exception to this requirement. If that’s the case, employers should have discussions with these individuals about further accommodations that can be explored and/or they can request to see any appropriate documentation that may be needed as evidence for this exception. Additional exceptions that may apply include but are not limited to if a mask impedes an employee’s ability to perform basic functions of their job and/or if the wearing of a mask creates a workplace hazard and/or safety concern.
If an employee simply refuses to follow their employer’s established and communicated safety policies, and does not have a situation that could be classified as an exception, such as the example described above employers may take corrective action and either discipline and/or terminate any employee for their refusal to follow company policies, as long as the policies in question are not illegal and/or hazardous. However, termination should be used as a last result.
Employers should always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before making personnel or business decisions, such as terminations or imposing any other discipline based upon an employee’s actions, to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
Employers should also continue to adhere to all safety guidance as outlined by the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and any state/local safety guidelines in place in addition to the face mask guidance noted above, and should also continue to follow any legislation that requires the wearing of masks or face coverings in the workplace as outlined by any federal, state, and/or local authority.
Who is required to wear a mask/face covering in Ohio?
As part of the Responsible RestartOhio program, Governor Mike DeWine has required employers and employees of reopened businesses to wear a mask or face covering when in the workplace. This requirement applies for any reopened business, regardless of industry. Some industries, such as healthcare, may have additional safety requirements. Exceptions to wearing a face mask/covering in the workplace include:
- if it’s not advised due to documented health condition(s)
- if it’s prohibited by law or regulation
- if it’s in violation of documented industry standards
- if it’s a violation of a company’s specific, documented safety policy
- if an employee is working by themself in an enclosed workspace
- Or if there is a functional/practical reason one cannot be worn.
Note: Written documentation/justification must be provided to an employer upon request of the exceptions outlined above.
Since customers are currently exempt from this requirement, Governor DeWine has encouraged individual business owners to consider creating and communicating their own policy of requiring customers to wear a face mask/covering when entering their business. Additionally, per CDC guidance, Governor DeWine has also strongly recommended that all individuals wear face masks/coverings while in public, if they can safety do so, as a possible way to not only protect one another from infection, but to potentially curb further transmission. Other prevention efforts, such as hand-washing and social distancing should continue to be practiced.
For more information, please visit the Ohio Department of Health’s Responsible RestartOhio Welcome Page, review the corresponding Responsible Protocols, or explore their Cloth Masks/Face Coverings in the Workplace FAQs.
Are face masks/coverings considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? Are employers required to provide face masks to their employees in OH?
According to OSHA, PPE is equipment that individuals can wear to help minimize their exposure to hazards in the workplace that can result in serious injury and/or illness. Currently, OSHA does not consider cloth face coverings to be PPE, however, both OSHA and the CDC still highly recommend that face masks and/or cloth coverings be worn in public to potentially help protect individuals from COVID-19 and to help prevent further transmission. For more information on the differences between cloth face coverings, face masks, and respirators, please explore the OSHA Cloth Face Coverings FAQs.
As part of the Responsible RestartOhio program, employers and employees of reopened businesses are required to wear face masks/coverings in the workplace. Despite this, as of July 2, 2020, no specific legislation has been put into place requiring employers to provide face masks/coverings to their employees.
Note: Some industries, such as healthcare, that are already subject to OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standards or other state and/or federal industry-specific regulations, may have additional safety requirements in place for providing face masks and/or additional PPE. Additional required PPE can include, but is not limited to, face/eye protection, gowns, gloves, or other equipment suggested by OSHA. If either state law or the employer requires employees to wear protective equipment in the workplace, the employer must pay for it. Please review the guidance published on OSHA’s website for recommended practices and additional guidance.
For more information, please visit the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Resource Page, review the information published on OSHA’s website, or explore the Ohio Department of Health’s Cloth Masks/Face Coverings in the Workplace FAQs.
What definition of “social distancing” and “close contact” should we follow?
According to the CDC, social and/or physical distancing is the practice of limiting any face-to-face contact with others by staying at least 6 feet away in order to potentially reduce the spread of and protect themselves from COVID-19. The CDC highly recommends that all individuals, both in public and in the workplace, practice social distancing, as possible.
When bringing their employees back to work, employers should consider implementing policies and practices for social distancing, which encourages employees to stay six feet away from each other whenever possible. This may include staggering employees’ on-site hours or attendance, allowing employees to work remotely, if possible, and/or reconfiguring work sites and spaces to allow employees to be further apart. Employers should also consider closing or limiting common areas such as break and conference rooms.
Regarding contact tracing, the CDC defines close contact as an individual who was within six feet of a person infected with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, starting from two days before illness onset, until the time the patient is quarantined/isolated. Additional considerations include but are not limited to the proximity to infected individuals, the duration of exposure, and whether the individual in question has shown symptoms of COVID-19. Additional CDC guidance on exposure to COVID-19 can be found here.
Please review your state and local health department resources and federal OSHA guidelines for any additional requirements and/or guidance. For public health guidance regarding community-related exposure(s) to COVID-19, please visit the CDC’s website.
What can an employer do if an employee does not wish to return to work because they care for an elderly parent who is vulnerable and do not want to pass the virus onto them or because they lack child care?
An employee’s reason(s) for not returning may make them eligible for some type of leave required by federal, state, or local law, so it is important to engage with your employees to understand why they are refusing to return before taking any action. For example, an employee concerned about their own health condition may be entitled to leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), additional federal (traditional FMLA) or state leave laws, or a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state law. Additionally, an employee caring for a child because their child’s school or daycare is still closed may be entitled to Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) or Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFML) under the FFCRA.
If your employees are raising reasonable COVID-19 safety concerns, their complaints or even their refusal to work may also be protected under OSHA or the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), even if your workplace is not unionized. Therefore, it is critically important to have a conversation with your employees about the reason for their leave request.
Employers may also consider allowing such an employee to work from home, if applicable. When implementing a work from home policy, employers should consider:
- Reimbursements for reasonable business expenses and/or workstation or required office equipment/technology.
- Covering necessary work-related travel expenses and mileage, if applicable.
- Ensuring applicability of your Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage in the event of a workplace accident.
- Setting clear guidelines for and expectations of remote workers.
- Compliance with general employment law regulations or practices such as providing and enforcing meal breaks for minors, if applicable, and ensuring that accurate time tracking methods are implemented.
Employers should always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before making personnel or business decisions to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
For more information, please visit the Paychex Coronavirus (COVID-19) Help Center, watch our pre-recorded webinar on refusals to return to work, read our Strategies for Managing Remote Employees WORX article and check out our previously recorded webinars on Managing Virtual Work Teams and The Virtual Workplace: Four Pillars of Effective Remote Management.
What are the current COVID-19-related travel restrictions in place for Ohio?
On May 19, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine eased certain aspects of Ohio’s stay-at-home orders and reduced state-wide travel restrictions from mandatory to highly recommended. Travelers now entering the state will no longer be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution, unless they show clear symptoms of COVID-19. Despite this, Governor DeWine still highly emphasizes the importance of following all safety guidance as outlined by the CDC and Ohio Department of Health and encourages the continued practice of social distancing.
For more travel information and restrictions, please visit the Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Guidance on Ohio Travel website or explore the Ohio Travel Association (OTA) Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources & Information website.
If I have an employee that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and they can work from home, am I as the employer required to get a doctor’s note for their personnel file?
Employers are not required to ask for medical information/documentation when an ADA accommodation request is made by an employee, however, employers can request such medical information/documentation if the employee’s disability and/or need for accommodation is not known or obvious. Employers are authorized to request medical information/documentation from an appropriate health care professional, such as a doctor, physical therapist, and/or nurse, in order to better understand the requester's disability, impairment, or limitations and to help address possible accommodations. However, the first step in this process is to have a conversation with an employee.
Employers should always consult with an HR professional and/or legal counsel before requesting medical information/documentation from employees to ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
For more information, please review the following EEOC resources:
- Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the ADA
- What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws
- The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer
If my company is based in one city, but my employees are working from home in a separate city and will work from home for more than 20 days over the span of one year, can I change their tax deductions from the city they work in to the city of where they reside?
Generally, most employees of medium and large-sized companies in Ohio whose sales exceed $500,000 a year are required by law to pay income taxes to the municipality where they’re conducting most of their business. Despite this, exceptions are made for employees who work from home and/or at a separate remote location for more than 20 days a year. For employees who fit into this exception, their taxes are then shifted to the municipality where they are working remotely beginning after the first 20 days.
Earlier this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency legislation was passed at the behest of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce which temporarily allows municipalities with large employers located within their limits to continue to collect income taxes, as if those companies’ employees were still working from their principle locations. Section 29 of House Bill 197 states that on days where an employee conducts personal services at a location as required for employment, which includes an employee's home, will be considered a day of performing personal services at the employee's principal work location. This legislation will expire 30 days after Governor Mike DeWine lifts the emergency declaration that was passed in March 2020. As of July 2, 2020, there has been no word on the lifting of this emergency declaration.
Note: This temporary legislation may be revisited and/or revised in the coming months. Other potential changes may include but are not limited to providing taxed employees with refunds.
Before attempting to change an employee’s tax deductions, employers should consult with your payroll or HR professional and/or legal counsel to help ensure compliance with federal, state, or local law.
Where can I find return to work information, safety guidelines, and regulatory updates?
As multiple states begin resuming business operations, Paychex remains dedicated to serving you, your employees, and your business. That’s why we’ve developed several online resources to help you remain up to date on your state's ever-evolving policies and executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and return to work protocols.
Paychex Return to Work Resources:
- Paychex Return to Work Resource Page
- Return to Work Checklist
Paychex Safety/Legal Resources:
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Help Center
- Business Preparedness After COVID-19
- After the Pandemic: What’s Next for Your Employees WORX article
- Infectious Disease Outbreak Plan: Considerations for Employers WORX article
- White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again during COVID-19 Pandemic WORX article
- Coronavirus at Work: Frequently Asked Questions WORX article
- Business Continuity Plan: How to Prepare for Business Interruptions WORX article
- Preventing and Managing Illness in the Workplace WORX article
- Download Your Business Continuity Plan (BCP) WORX article
Paychex Pre-Recorded Webinars:
- Navigating the Ohio Workplace During and After COVID-19
- Refusals to Return to Work: Childcare, Vulnerable Populations, and Other Employee Challenges
- Returning to Work: Maintaining Workplace Health and Safety
- The Return to Work: Preparing for Week 1
- Navigating COVID-19: Understanding New HR Regulations and Best Practices
- The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
- COVID-19 Preparedness: Practical Ways to Protect Your Employees and Business
- Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Resource Page
- Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Unemployment Insurance Resource Page
- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s website
- Ohio Department of Health Public Health Orders Resource Page
- Ohio Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard