Ohio’s Ban On Residency Rules Only Applies To Ordinances, Not Contracts

The collective bargaining agreement between the City of Perrysburg, Ohio and the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association has a residency rule that requires employees to live either in Perrysburg or nearby areas. A recently enacted Ohio statute, on the other hand, provides that no political subdivision shall require any of its employees, as a condition of employment, to reside in any specific area of the state.

The Association sought a declaratory judgment, seeking to have the contract’s residency clause illegal under the statute.

An appeals court found that “the residency statute refers only to residency restrictions imposed by local law, ordinance, or resolution. In a prior case, the Ohio Supreme Court stressed that enabling employees of political subdivisions to live where they desire is a matter of statewide concern and that, generally, a political subdivision could not ‘require’ an employee to reside in a specific area.

“The residency ordinance undercuts the right to collectively bargain all of the terms and conditions of public-sector employment and thus actually impairs the right to contract by imposing a condition of employment rather than allowing the parties to negotiate the condition as part of the collective bargaining agreement. Simply put, the statute does not impair contractual rights; it ensures a level playing field when public-sector employees negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with a political subdivision.

“The statute permits collective bargaining agreements relating to residency provisions, and limits only the ability of a municipality to enact local ordinances limiting the residency choices of its employees. The mere fact that the Association, in hindsight, could have benefited from the provisions of the residency statute does not negate the fact that an agreement was reached between the parties.”

Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Assn. v. Perrysburg, 2011 WL 486858 (Ohio App. 2011).