Last month, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) approved new maternity leave regulations requiring all Ohio employers having 4 or more employees to give each pregnant employee up to 12 weeks paid or unpaid maternity leave, regardless of whether the employee is in her first year of employment and regardless of whether she has previously exhausted any other leave that might have been available to her for non-maternity purposes. On Monday, December 3, 2007, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) voted 9-1 to reject the Commission’s proposal.
JCARR told the Commission members that they failed to appropriately consider the cost-impact analysis for schools and local governments when forming the policy. The panel ordered the OCRC to revise and refile its rule summary and fiscal analysis after a 90-day period.
The Committee did not discuss the merits of the policy, rather they merely stated that the Commission failed to adequately analyze the cost of the 12-weeks maternity leave. However, even if this cost analysis is completed, business groups are expected to renew their argument that the Commission’s regulations overstep the authority granted to the Commission by the Ohio legislature.
Before the regulation went to JCARR, Governor Ted Strickland asked Barbara Sykes, the Commission’s Chairwoman, to delay the maternity rules. Sykes forged ahead anyway and Governor Strickland later announced he was no longer inclined to support her appointment. This Tuesday, Ms. Sykes announced she would resign her post at the end of the year.
Given the rocky road for these proposed regulations so far, it seems unlikely they will become a reality anytime in the near future, although the Commission has not yet announced whether it intended to resubmit the regulations to JCARR. For now, employers should continue to evaluate their pregnancy leave policies to make sure they are giving a reasonable amount of leave to all pregnant employees regardless of their tenure, as this was the standard the Commission followed prior to its efforts to pass the new regulations.