Did You Know? is a bi-monthly series from OGA that will feature answers to some of our members most frequently-asked-questions. This information will be archived for future reference. Please contact OGA President, Kristin Mullins, should you have questions or need additional information.
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November 30, 2016 –
The Thanksgiving holiday marked the beginning of an intense, demanding, yet hopefully prosperous month-long period for retailers across the nation. Arguably the busiest time of the year for stores, also comes with items and products on the shelves you may not typically have in your stores throughout the year. For many of you, this includes holiday gift baskets and stockings that typically peak this time of year. With this in mind, it’s always a good reminder to talk about these items and how they apply to SNAP eligible items.
A brief reminder about what can and cannot be used by SNAP benefits is readily available on the USDA FNS website is found here: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items. We would encourage all SNAP eligible retailers to review the list as a good refresher. In relation to Holiday Gift items, such as baskets or stockings, the general rule of thumb is if the item contains both food and non-food items and the value of the non-food items exceeds 50 percent of the purchase price, then the item is NOT SNAP Eligible. This holds true for items such as a special occasion cake or similar product as well. However, if for example a basket contained primarily food items, and included some sort of small toy or non-food product, where it can clearly be determined that the food accounts for more than 50% of purchase price, then it would be eligible for SNAP benefits.
As you embark on this holiday season, we would encourage retailers to review the attached pdf on SNAP eligible items, including holiday items.
Sales Tax Holiday
July 27, 2016 – Last year, OGA supported the creation of Ohio’s first ever sales tax holiday during the first weekend of August. Designed to give the consumer a much needed boost during the expensive back to school season, Ohio’s sales tax holiday proved to be a huge success in 2015. According to a study by the University of Cincinnati Economic Center, the tax holiday last year saved consumers $3.3 million while providing the state and local governments with an additional $4.7 million in sales tax revenue. Today, more and more grocers and retail food establishments are offering new nontraditional products in their stores including clothes and school supplies.
During the spring legislative session, the General Assembly reauthorized the sales tax holiday for another year and is set to commence next weekend. In preparation, here are a few last minute reminders for members as we look to another successful and profitable shopping experience for both consumers and businesses.
- When does it start? The sales tax holiday begins Friday, August 5, 2016 at 12:01 am and ends Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 11:59 pm.
- What items are exempt? Clothing priced at $75 per item or less; school supplies priced at $20 per item or less; and school instructional material priced at $20 per item or less.
- What kind of items are not eligible? Clothing accessories, sports or recreational equipment, protective equipment, various items sold separately – for full list please visit the Ohio Department of Taxation website found here).
- Can you purchase items online? Yes, items can be bought online and if all the items purchased online are eligible items and if each falls below the qualifying threshold, the shipping and handling charges are exempt.
We recommend reviewing the Department of Taxation’s FAQ detailing other common questions and answers on the Ohio Sales Tax holiday – found here.
Ohio will soon become the 25th state to legalize medical marijuana with the passage of House Bill 523 by the Ohio Legislature last week. Since California first legalized medical marijuana back in 1996, a total 24 states and DC have followed suit in passing various measures to legalize medicinal uses of marijuana. With Ohio’s pending law likely to go into effect this fall, what does this mean for Ohio employer’s and businesses?
First let’s take a quick look at a rough timeline and target dates of implementation:
- This fall, likely September, the law establishes an “affirmative defense” against prosecution for patients and caregivers under state law, meaning medical marijuana use may be legal for some beginning this fall.
- October – the bill sets up a Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee which will determine the rules and regulations.
- May 2017 – requires the Department of Commerce to determine how many licenses will be issued and set cultivator standards.
- During this time, the Ohio State Pharmacy Board actually writes the rules for the licensing of the dispensaries and the Ohio State Medical Board sets the rules for how physicians will qualify to recommend medical marijuana.
- All this means that likely it won’t be until 2018 until you actually see dispensaries pop up in Ohio.
So how should Ohio grocers and retailers prepare? Ohio is an at-will state, meaning employers have the right to terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all. House Bill 532 protects these rights by specifying an employee could be fired for marijuana use, even if it’s not while at work and even if the employee has a doctor’s note. Given that the employer has a drug-free or zero tolerance policy currently in place. That is why it is critically important for employer’s to review their drug-free workplace policies now, to make sure they are up to date and accurate.
Please contact Kristin Mullins for any additional guidance on this subject or any other government affairs questions.
E-cigarettes have become more and more prevalent since their introduction into the market in the early 2000s. According to researchers from the CDC and Georgia State University, from 2010 to 2013, awareness of e-cigarettes grew to 80% and the use of e-cigarettes more than doubled among US adults during that time. With any new emerging product comes questions, and one that is top of mind for many employers is the use of e-cigarettes in public and what the law says.
Ohio, like most states, has a smoke-free workplace law in place prohibiting the use of smoking. However, to date, e-cigarettes are not included in this ban because the law, found in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3794.01 defines smoking as the burning of tobacco or any other plant material. However, the law does explicitly state the ORC 3794 does not prohibit enactment of stricter policies or regulations, therefore it is left to each private business to determine its own policies. Attached is a fact sheet from the National Business Group that provides some additional guidance and helpful suggestions on e-cigarettes policies in the workplace. Please contact Kristin Mullins for any additional guidance on this subject or any other government affairs questions.
Service Animals, the ADA and Your Business
Employers encounter a wide variety of different issues and experiences on a day to day basis in their stores. While you may not be able to necessarily predict what might happen, employers should educate themselves and their employees to adequately prepare for each situation. One emerging issue business owners are experiencing today is with respect to service animals.
Service animals are a federally regulated entity that falls under the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) justification. In 2010 (and implemented in March of 2011) the DOJ provided guidance on service animals which are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are specifically defined as only dogs and are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”
The question arises on how business owners are to properly interact with service animals and their owners as well as fellow customers. First, business owners should be mindful that the dog is not required to wear a vest and it is illegal to ask the owner to present a form or a type of certification that the animal is indeed a service animal. However, there are specific questions the business owner can ask: “(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform” – but the word of the owner of the service animal must be accepted. Employers and employees cannot ask about the individuals disability or demand the service animal perform a specific task. In an instance where the service animal starts eating food off the ground or begins disrupting the safety of the store, then the animal itself can be removed – not the owner.
For more information on service animals and the specific rules, we recommend reading the ADA guidelines on the issue.
Gun Laws and Ohio
Guns…arguably one of the most highly debated issues out there today. Ranging from the political conversation in Congress to the continual presidential cycle debate, there is much spirited discussion on the matter. With that in mind, it should also serve as a good refresher for OGA members on Ohio’s gun laws and how that applies to their respective customer base.
Ohio is an open carry state, meaning the law says that an individual can possess a firearm without a permit in most public spaces (a handful are prohibited, including government buildings, restrictions in motor vehicles, license liquor establishments, etc.) so long as it is fully visible. However, there are also laws stating you cannot induce a panic on the public, which is why if you walked down a public street openly carry a firearm, you would most likely receive some unwanted attention from law enforcement. Ohio also has concealed – carry laws on the books. With the appropriate amount of training, certification, and fee, you can apply to receive your concealed carry license.
So what does this mean for businesses as it relates to their customers? For starters, any owner of private property has the right to ban handguns by posting a clearly visible sign or providing verbal notice. As mentioned above, there are also specific “no-carry” zones that are mandated by the Ohio Revised Code. One of which that applies to many grocery stores, is the prohibition of the possession of firearms on a premise for which a D permit has been issued. For example, if your store has a D-8 that allows for the sampling of alcohol on the premises, by law, no individual can possess a firearm on that premise. Certain exceptions are included, most notably due to a recently adopted law, any person who has a concealed carry license is allowed to continue to carry on a D permit premise, as long as the person is not consuming any alcohol. We recommend reading more about the prohibition on a D permit premise.
As you head out into your respective stores and businesses this week, we hope this information may provide further clarity on the issue of firearms in the workplace setting or can be used as a good reminder for your employees as they interact with customers.
9-1-1 is the common, yet critically important three digit number that is designed as an emergency mechanism for citizens all across our country. 9-1-1 programs are typically funded based on state laws in which a monthly fee is imposed on local and wireless telephone customers. The fees vary based on locality, but according the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the average fee is roughly $.72. In Ohio, there is a $0.25 9-1-1 user fee imposed on wireless customers and a $0.50 max fee on wireline or landlines.
As the 9-1-1 service has involved over the years, so has the use of telephone options, such as the use of prepaid cell phones. Which led the Ohio legislature to adopt new rules on the sale of the prepaid wireless calling service and the 9-1-1 charge associated with it. Effective at the start of 2014, a charge of five tenths of one percent or 0.5% of the sale price on the retail sale of prepaid wireless calling service is collected at the point of sale (ORC 128.42(B)). For retailers that sell these items, they must collect the charge from the consumer and separate the wireless 9-1-1 charge on the receipt, so that it is clearly visible. However, before a retailer would start collecting the charge, they must first electronically register his or her company via the Ohio Business Gateway to begin filing their monthly returns. Furthermore, the monthly return is due on or before the 23rd of the following month, identical to sales tax. Lastly, retailers are allowed to keep 3% of the total wireless 9-1-1 charge as a collection fee.
As a reminder, if your store does not sell prepaid wireless calling service items, then you are not affected by this change in the law. We recommend visiting the Ohio Department of Taxation, at www.tax.ohio.gov and studying the FAQs: Sales and Use – 9-1-1 Charge section or call the Ohio Department of Taxation at (888) 405-4039 for further questions or additional information