New Paid Sick Leave Law Enacted

On Sept. 28, 2017, Gov. Raimondo signed S290 into law. The new law, called the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, sets statewide standards for paid sick and safe leave for Rhode Island (RI) employees. The law requires employers with 18 or more employees in RI to allow employees to accrue and use three days of paid sick and safe leave. The law covers most employees (except outside salespeople, golf caddies, seasonal resort employees, independent contractors, federal work-study participants and licensed nurses). Employees can use leave for themselves or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Family members include children, grandchildren, grandparents, parents (including in-laws), siblings and spouses.

Employees begin to accrue leave when employment begins or July 1, 2018 (whichever is later), at a rate of one leave hour for every 35 hours worked. Unless they are more generous, employers must allow employees to annually accrue up to 24 hours in 2018, 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours thereafter. In addition, accrued but unused leave must be carried over into the following year. That said, employers are not required to cash out accrued leave upon an employee’s termination from employment.

Employees can request leave orally, in writing, via email or by any other means, and must provide advance notice where possible. Employees can use paid leave for a variety of reasons, including (the employee’s or family member’s) mental or physical illness, medical diagnosis, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, or closure of the employee’s place of business or a child’s school or place of care (by order of a public official due to a public health emergency) Employers may not request an employee to disclose details relating to leave for domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual contact, stalking or health information prior to approving a RI-protected leave.

Employers with paid leave policies that are at least as generous as the new law will be considered as satisfying the new RI paid sick leave law. Employers should review their leave policies to ensure they are prepared to comply with the new RI law, which takes effect on July 1, 2018.

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