Rhode Island Employees Will Have Paid Sick Leave Starting This Summer

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently signed into law the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Actwhich goes into effect on July 1, 2018 (the “Act”).  Rhode Island joins an increasing number of cities and states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, that have enacted paid sick leave laws.

Under the Act, most employers with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island must allow employees to accrue and use paid time off for:

  • An employee’s own illness, injury, or health condition or preventive medical care;
  • Care of an employee’s family member with an illness, injury, or health condition or the family member’s preventive care;
  • Closure of an employee’s place of work or an employee’s child’s school or place of care by a public health official due to a public health emergency; or
  • Leave needed when the employee or employee’s family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

For purposes of the Act, “family member” is defined broadly to include an employee’s child, parent, spouse, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partner, sibling, member of the employee’s household, or care recipient (a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing health or safety related care).

Some employers (such as the state and certain employers in the construction industry) and employees (such as interns, outside sales employees, and licensed nurses employed by a health care facility on a per diem basis) are exempt from the Act.

Eligible employees can accrue and use paid leave under the Act at a rate of one hour of leave for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours of time off in 2018.  The maximum annual accrual and use will increase to 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours in 2020 and every year thereafter.  As an alternative to tracking accrual, employers may choose to comply with the Act by providing a lump sum of paid time off on a monthly or annual basis or an unlimited time off policy.  An eligible employee will begin to accrue time off under the Act on the employee’s first day of work or July 1, 2018, whichever is later.

Also, employers with less than 18 employees in Rhode Island are required to provide employees with unpaid leave in the same manner as is described above.

We encourage businesses with employees in Rhode Island to review time off policies to ensure compliance with the Act, as well as other state and federal leave laws.

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Shannon Lynch, the author of this alert, is an employment law partner at Beck Reed Riden LLP.

Beck Reed Riden LLP is Boston’s innovative litigation boutique. Our lawyers have years of experience at large law firms, working with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups and individuals. We focus on business litigation and labor and employment. We are experienced litigators and counselors, helping our clients as business partners to resolve issues and develop strategies that best meet our clients’ legal and business needs – before, during, and after litigation. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and help you. Read more about us, the types of matters we handle, and what we can do for you here.