It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Rhode Island statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Rhode Island labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act requires employers with at least 18 employees to allow employees to accrue one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 35 hours worked, or paid time off up to a maximum of 32 hours in 2019, and a maximum of 40 hours in the years that follow. 
  • Medical Leave: The Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act requires employers with more than 50 employees to grant an unpaid leave of absence of 13 weeks in any two calendar years for the following reasons:
    • The birth of a child
    • The adoption of a child 16 years of age or younger
    • A serious illness of an employee or their parent, spouse, child, mother-in-law, or father-in-law 
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation time but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.
    • Employees who have been with the business for at least one year must be paid for any vacation time accrued in accordance with implemented policy by the next regularly scheduled payday after separation from employment
  • School Leave: Employers must provide their employees who have been with the business for at least 12 consecutive months with up to 10 hours of leave during any 12-month period to attend school conferences or other school-related activities for their children.
    • The employer may require that the employee provide 24 hours’ notice of the leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.
  • Jury Duty: Employers are not required to pay an employee for time taken to respond to a jury summons, but they are not allowed to punish the employee in any way.
  • Witness Leave: Employers in Rhode Island must provide employees with leave to appear as a witness pursuant to a subpoena. They cannot take any adverse action against an employee for taking witness leave.
    • An employer is not required to pay an employee for witness leave.
  • Crime Victim Leave: Employers with 50 or more employees must provide leave to an employee who is the victim of a crime to attend court proceedings related to the crime.
    • Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for taking crime victim leave.
    • They are not required to pay an employee for such leave.
    • Employers can require—and must allow—an employee to use paid vacation, personal leave, or sick leave. Employers can limit the amount of crime victim leave provided if the leave causes an undue hardship.
  • Holiday Leave: Employers are required to pay a rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate on Sundays and the following holidays:
    • New Year’s Day
    • Memorial Day
    • Independence Day
    • Victory Day
    • Labor Day
    • Columbus Day
    • Veterans’ Day
    • Thanksgiving Day
    • Christmas Day
    • Employees can also refuse to work on Sundays and legal holidays. 
  • Voting Leave: No statute. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.
  • Military Leave: Employers must also allow service members to take military leave when they are called to duty. After their service, the employee is entitled to return to their job or a job with similar seniority, status, and pay.
  • Family Military Leave: Employers that have at least 15 employees must allow an employee to take unpaid military family leave when their spouse or child is called to military service lasting more than 30 days.
    • To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and for at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months.
    • For employers that have 15 to 50 employees, the leave is up to 15 days. For employers that have more than 50 employees, the leave is up to 30 days.

Final Paycheck

  • Employees who separate from employment for any reason (including termination, resignation and layoffs) must be paid all final wages by the next regularly scheduled payday. 
  • If an employee is terminated due to the employer liquidating or merging the business, closing down the business, or moving it out of state, they must be paid all final wages within 24 hours. 

Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage in Rhode Island is $10.50. 

Tipped Wages

The minimum wage for tipped employees is $3.89. 

Pay Practices

  • Employers must pay their hourly employees weekly on regular paydays the employer chooses in advance. An employer may request an exemption from the Labor Commissioner. Childcare providers may choose to be paid every two weeks.
  • Employees whose wages are fixed at a biweekly, semimonthly, monthly, or annual rate do not need to be paid weekly.
  • At least three paydays before changing the scheduled payday, employers must post a notice in a prominent location or otherwise inform employees in writing.

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age may not work:
    • During school hours
    • Before 6 a.m. and after 7 p.m., except during school vacation days when they may work until 9 p.m. 
    • More than 3 hours a day when school is in session and more than 8 hours a day when school is not in session
    • More than 18 hours a week during the school year and 40 hours a week when school is not in session 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age may not work:
    • More than 48 hours a week
    • More than 9 hours a day
    • Before 6 a.m. or after 11:30 p.m. when they have school the next day. They may work until 1:30 a.m. when there is no school the next day. 
    • Without an 8-hour gap between the end of a shift and the start of another shift the next day. 
  • There are no hour restrictions for 16 and 17 year olds during the summer, and no restrictions if they have left school. 

Hiring

  • Background Checks: Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.
  • Credit and Investigative Checks: Employers may obtain credit reports on applicants but must tell the applicant that they will request their credit report beforehand.
    • If the employer does not hire the applicant because of the information in the credit report, they must tell them so and give them the name and address of the credit reporting agency that produced the report.
  • Arrest and Conviction Checks: Rhode Island has a “Ban the Box” law. Under the law employers are prohibited from asking whether a job applicant has a criminal history prior to the first interview.
    • Employers may only inquire about convictions and may never inquire about arrests.
    • Applicants whose records have been expunged may deny having a criminal history.
  • Mandatory Background Checks: Rhode Island requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees or applicants:
    • School personnel, unless they have been employed by a school in Rhode Island within the past 12 months, including volunteers who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children or students on school premises
    • Healthcare personnel working for an agency or facility licensed by the state if the employee will have routine contact with a patient or resident outside the presence of other employees
    • Personnel working for an assisted living residence if the employee will have routine contact with a resident or have access to a resident’s belongings or funds
    • Personnel working for a facility licensed by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families if the employee will have supervisory or disciplinary power over children or will have routine contact with children outside the presence of other employees
    • Personnel working for a facility licensed, funded, or operated by the Department of Mental Health, Retardation, and Hospitals

Drug and Alcohol Testing

  • Employers who want to test applicants for drug or alcohol use must comply with all the following requirements:
    • Only test an applicant after offering them a job conditioned on passing a drug test
    • Only test an applicant in private, outside the presence of any people
    • Confirm a positive test by a federally certified laboratory that uses gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or technology that is at least as scientifically accurate
  • Employers who want to test employees for drug or alcohol use must comply with all the following requirements:
    • Have reasonable grounds based on specific aspects of the employee’s job performance and specific contemporaneous documented observations, concerning the employee’s appearance, behavior, or speech to believe that the employee may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which may be impairing their ability to perform their job
    • Provide the test sample in private, outside the presence of any person
    • Do not discharge an employee because they fail their drug test and, instead, refer them to a licensed substance abuse professional for assistance. However, an employer may require additional testing and discharge an employee who fails their drug test after completing their treatment
    • Confirm a positive test by a federally certified laboratory that uses gas chromatography-mass spectrometry or technology that is at least as scientifically accurate;
    • Pay for testing
    • Allow the employee to have the sample tested or evaluated by an independent testing facility and inform the employee that they can do so
    • Provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity to rebut or explain the results
    • Have a drug abuse prevention policy that complies with requirements of this chapter
    • Keep the results of all tests confidential, except for disclosing the results of a positive test to other employees with a job-related need to know and to defend against any legal action brought by the employee against the employer.

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.
  • State law requires employers to pay non-exempt employees an overtime rate of 1 ½  their regular rate for all hours worked in a workweek in excess of 40. 
  • Employers are required to provide employees with time off on Sundays and holidays upon request and with premium pay of at least time and a half  if hours are worked on Sundays or holidays, regardless of whether the employee has worked more than 40 hours in that workweek.
  • Employers (excluding those in the healthcare industry and those with less than 3 employees) are required to provide a 20-minute meal period for 6-hour shifts and a 30-minute meal period for 8-hour shifts.
  • Rhode Island employers that have four or more employees must provide lactating employees with reasonable breaks and a private place to express milk. The space may not be a bathroom.
    • Employers may be exempted from providing lactation accommodations if they can show that providing the accommodation would create an undue hardship, which is defined as requiring significant difficulty or expense, including but not limited to the following factors:
      • The nature and cost of the accommodation
      • The employer’s overall financial resources
      • The number of employees,
      • The number, type, and location of its facilities
      • The effect on expenses and resources or other impact of the accommodation on the business

Required Posters

The State of Rhode Island requires that employers post the following notices in a prominent location:

  • Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (employers who have more than 50 employees)
  • Rhode Island Right to Know Law (regarding hazardous substances)
  • Prevailing Wage: Working on State or Municipal Financed Construction Projects
  • Minimum Wage
  • RI Child Labor Laws
  • Rhode Island Unemployment Insurance and Temporary Disability Insurance Law
  • Workers’ Compensation Act
  • Discrimination Is Illegal
  • Notice of Right to Be Free From Discrimination Because of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Related Conditions
  • Sexual Harassment
  • It Is Illegal to Smoke in This Establishment

Employment Discrimination

  • Federal law makes it illegal to discriminate based on the following:
    • Race
    • Color
    • Age
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Gender
    • Gender identity
    • Religion
    • National origin
    • Pregnancy
    • Genetic information, including family medical history
    • Physical or mental disability
    • Child or spousal support withholding
    • Military or veteran status
    • Citizenship and/or immigration status
  • Additionally, the state of Rhode Island prohibits discrimination based on the following:
    • AIDS/HIV
    • Arrest record
    • Domestic abuse victim status
    • Tobacco use outside of the course of employment
    • Homelessness
  • Employers may not discharge or discriminate against employees because they are a member of the Rhode Island military or of the US reserves. In addition, employers may not take or threaten to take an adverse employment action against an employee to convince them not to enlist.
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.       

Termination

Rhode Island is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Whistleblower Protection

Employers in Rhode Island may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for doing any of the following:

  • Reporting in good faith a violation of a state, federal, or local law or rule
  • Participating in an investigation or proceeding
  • Refusing to participate in a violation of a of state, federal, or local law

COBRA

  • COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.”
  • Rhode Island’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to 18 months. Employers must post a notice in a prominent location of their COBRA rights. In addition, we recommend informing an employee as soon as a triggering event occurs.

Shift Scheduling

There are currently no laws regarding shift scheduling in Rhode Island.

Miscellaneous Laws

Cafeteria Insurance

Employers with an average of 25 or more employees for six months of the year are required to maintain and make available to employees a cafeteria-style (aka “Section 125”) health insurance plan.

Social Media

  • Rhode Island employers may not:
    • Require, coerce, or request an employee or applicant to disclose the password or any other means for accessing a personal social media account
    • Require, coerce, or request an employee or applicant to access a personal social media account in the presence of the employer or representative
    • Require or coerce an employee or applicant to divulge any personal social media account information
    • Compel an employee or applicant to add anyone, including the employer or their agent, to their list of contacts associated with a personal social media account
    • Require, request, or cause an employee or applicant to alter settings that affect a third party’s ability to view the contents of a personal social media account.
  • There is an exception to the law when something on social media is reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or workplace-related violation of applicable laws and regulations and when not otherwise prohibited by law or constitution; provided that the information is accessed and used solely to the extent necessary for purposes of that investigation or a related proceeding.

Employee Monitoring

  • Employers may not listen to or record their employees’ wire communications except in limited circumstances, such as if at least one of the parties to the communication has given prior consent.
  • Employers may not record their employees in restrooms, locker rooms, or any place that is designated for them to change clothes.
  • Employers may not install any tracking device, such as GPS, in a motor vehicle, unless they obtain consent from the driver and all the passengers or the employer owns or leases the motor vehicle.

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