In Rhode Island, employers must comply with the signed Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act (HSFWA) in 2018 by Governor Gina M. Raimondo.
This Rhode Island sick leave law ensures that employees in the state may address their needs regarding health and safety. All eligible employees, including part-time, seasonal, temporary, and full-time workers, may earn paid sick and safe leaves.
Under the state law, employees are qualified to receive benefits and leave if they meet the required criteria:
- By definition of an employee, he or she is permitted to work under an employer.
- Employees who work in different states must do most of their work under the state.
- Leaves may be used for members of an employee’s household (traditional family, dependent, or person residing in the employee’s physical address).
If you meet the above requirements, you may use your sick and safe leaves with protection from termination, threats, demotion, or any form of punishment.
You may use your sick leaves for the following purposes:
- The employee needs a physical or mental health diagnosis, preventive care, or treatment.
- Care for a family member suffering from physical or mental illness and needing diagnosis, preventive care, or treatment.
- Business closure of the employee’s place of work or their child’s school shut down due to public health hazards or emergency.
- Need for time off when a family member suffers from sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.
Employees must provide advanced notice, at least 24 hours or within a reasonable time frame before the absence.
Employers may request documentation requirements from the employee to show that your absence was done for a covered purpose.
On the other hand, requesting documentation must not burden the employees unreasonably or incur them to pay for expenses (medical, administration, and transportation fees) that are twice the employee’s hourly rate.
Rhode Island employers with 18 or more employees must provide paid sick leave to their employees. Their employees are subject to one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked, which can accrue up to 40 annually.
While employers will probably have their own sick time policy, it is required by law that Rhode Islanders receive the same, if not better, sick leave benefits.
- Employers with less than 17 employees are still required to give the same amount of leave, but offering pay is not mandatory.
- Employers are not required to provide paid sick leave to employees under these specific conditions:
- Employed by the state or municipality
- Independent contractors, subcontractors (see North American Industry Classification System)
- Work-study participants
- For new hires, employers may mandate a waiting period through writing that employees aren’t yet eligible for accrued sick and safe leaves.
- 90 days waiting period for all employers
- 150 maximum waiting period for seasonal employees
- 180 maximum waiting period for temporary employees
Family Medical Leave
If you are unfortunately not eligible for the above conditions, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may help you get the time needed to address your concerns.
Rhode Island Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave because of health conditions or care for a newborn child and/or family member suffering from serious injury.
Employees are covered under FMLA if they:
- Work for a business with 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
- Have worked at least one year for the company
- Have accumulated 1250 work hours in the past year
You may enjoy your healthcare benefits while on leave, but take note the FMLA leave is unpaid.
On the other hand, employees can use their accrued paid leave during this period. Upon finishing the FMLA leave, an employee gets entitled to return to the same or equivalent position, along with some exceptions.
Temporary Disability Insurance
Thankfully, Rhode Island’s state law has provisions allowing workers to receive up to 30 weeks of partial wage replacement from a temporary disability, including pregnancy.
This state program allows you to take up to four leave weeks per year, which is paid for by the state. Additionally, this program has been expanded for various circumstances wherein employees might have a decreased productivity for businesses.
This includes the employees’ care recipients, such as a newborn child or a health care provider for a family member suffering from illness.
Employee Protections For Sick Leave
State laws protect Rhode Islanders if they decide to use their sick leave time. It does not discriminate the category of employment for the workers.
It means that covered employees may exercise their right to allocate time off work without termination of employment.
Rhode Islanders who wish to use their FMLA leaves are protected unless they violate employer policies.
Other Sick Leave Laws
As additional guidance, here are some relevant pieces of information in retrospect on Rhode Island sick leave laws:
An employer must strictly follow the stipulations in the company handbook in compliance with state laws.
Failure to comply with said sick leave plans would penalize the employer with not less than $100 for the first offense. Succeeding violations from the employer will be subjected to harsher civil penalties under chapter 12 of the HSWA.
Under the HSWA, leave payment depends on the business size, which is 18 or more employees. If the employee qualifies for leave payment, they are entitled to receive a wage payment equal to the hourly rate.
At the same time, the Rhode Island sick leave law or policy guarantees that the leave pay must not go below minimum wage. Additionally, payment of wages while on leave will depend on the type of employment:
- Salaried employees
- Sales employees
- Piece-rate employees
- Other factors involved (Bonuses, Shift differential, Commissions)
In context with the Rhode Island Food Code, HSWA regulations enforce a different approach for food employees. It means that employers will have different rules to follow with the code regarding documentation for an employee’s leave.
If HSWA conflicts with the food code, employees will only need to adhere to HSWA policies in terms of documentation requirements.
Employers may require employees to present a doctor’s note after three consecutive absences. The note does not have to show the type of illness due to patient-doctor confidentiality.