Ohio Panel Approves Maternity Leave Rule

October 26, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - A new state rule approved this week by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission requires companies with four or more employees to grant women up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid maternity leave.

The rule extends existing federal mandates requiring companies with more than 50 employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid maternity time off, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer news report. The new law also differs from federal law as it would apply to all women regardless of years of service – federal law requires women to work for a large company for at least a year before becoming eligible for maternity leave.

Ohio mothers must demonstrate that a medical professional believes the time off is medically necessary, said Toni Delgado, spokeswoman for the Civil Rights Commission, which approved the rule change by a 4-1 vote.

The bill including smaller Ohio companies in maternity leave requirements automatically becomes state law within 41 days of being filed unless it is invalidated by the 10-member Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, the news report said.

Some business groups, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, said they oppose any abrupt rule change, preferring that the matter be debated by all legislators in the Ohio General Assembly.

“This is creating a super-protected class of women,” said Tony Fiore, director of labor and human resources policy with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, in the news report. “It goes well beyond state and federal regulations.”

Ohio would join 18 other states and the District of Columbia in requiring a more generous offering by private employers of maternity benefits than under federal law. The news report said a recent study by Policy Matters Ohio estimates that at least 445,000 women in Ohio are not eligible for any leave from their jobs during pregnancy or after childbirth.

Ohio law now currently dictates that employers give women a “reasonable period of time” off to care for their new babies.