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Supreme Court Says Municipal Employees Can Live Where They Choose

08.12.09 written by

Over the last decade numerous cities have begun to require their employees to reside with the city limits. Municipalities have justified the residence restrictions by asserting the need for additional voters for ballot issues, additional income taxes, and to ensure they are employing individuals who have a vested interest in the community.

Recently the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Revised Code §9.481 which states “. . . no political subdivision shall require any of its employees, as a condition of employment, to reside in any specific area of the state [except] . . . to ensure adequate response times by certain employees in political subdivisions to emergencies or disasters . . . ” In creating Revised Code §9.481 the General Assembly reasoned “it is a matter of statewide concern to generally allow the employees of Ohio’s political subdivisions to choose where to live, and that it is necessary to generally prohibit political subdivisions from requiring their employees, as a condition of employment, to reside in any specific area of the state in order to provide for the comfort, health, safety and general welfare of those public employees.” 2006 Sub. S.B. No. 82, §3.

In Lima v. State, 122 Ohio St.3d 155, the Ohio Supreme Court confronted two separate city ordinances, one for the City of Lima and one for the City of Akron, both of which required city employees to reside within the city limits. The Ohio Supreme Court concluded that the Ohio General Assembly had the constitutional power under §34, Article II of the Constitution to enact Revised Code §9.481. The Ohio Supreme Court decision reverses prior Ohio case law which held Revised Code §9.481 unconstitutional after reviewing similar ordinances in the cities of Cleveland and Toledo. The Ohio Supreme Court decision ends the debate upon whether or not municipalities can enforce residency restrictions upon their employees, and it appears municipal employees will have the freedom to choose where they reside absent certain limited exceptions.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.