Other Leaves: Rhode Island
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Jessica Sussman
- There are various types of leave that may be available to an employee in Rhode Island. See Leaves of Absence.
- Rhode Island eligible employees may be entitled to leave under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act. See Family and Medical Leaves of Absence.
- The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act requires covered Rhode Island employers to provide paid sick and safe leave to eligible employees. See Paid Sick and Safe Leave.
- Rhode Island covered employers must provide eligible employees with leave to attend school conferences or other school-related activities for the employee's child. See School Involvement Leave.
- Employers are required to provide employees with time off to attend jury duty. See Jury Duty Leave.
- An employer must allow an employee to take unpaid time off from work to respond to a subpoena to give evidence or testify before a court or before any judicial, quasi-judicial or another administrative body or entity with the authority to issue subpoenas. See Witness Duty Leave.
- A covered employer must provide an employee who is a crime victim with leave to attend court proceedings related to the crime. See Crime Victim Leave.
- Rhode Island employees must be provided with a leave of absence for military training or active duty. See Military Leave.
- Employers must provide leave to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians responding to an emergency. See Emergency Responder Leave.
Leaves of Absence
There are various types of leave that may be available to an employee in Rhode Island. To the extent that applicable federal, state or local laws conflict, an employer should apply the provisions that provide the greatest benefits and protections to the employee.
An employer should remain alert to the various types of leave available and take care to track employees' leaves of absence, including:
- The date the leave begins;
- The type of leave; and
- The expected return date.
An employee who exercises leave rights is not protected from discipline for legitimate reasons that are unrelated to the leave and that are not otherwise prohibited by law.
If an employer must discipline an employee who has exercised his or her leave rights, it should carefully document the reasons for the discipline, review past application of the rule (to ensure the policy is being enforced evenhandedly), and consider whether to seek the advice of counsel before imposing the discipline.
Employers should note that leave required by a state or local law is not taken into account when determining the amount of leave provided by an employer for federal tax credit purposes under the federal tax reform law.
Family and Medical Leaves of Absence
In addition to being covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Rhode Island eligible employees may also be entitled to leave under the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA). For a more full discussion on the RIPFMLA, please see FMLA: Rhode Island.
Family Military Leave
Rhode Island's Family Military Leave Act requires covered employers to offer unpaid leave to families of servicemembers. Although employers that employ fewer than 50 employees are not required to provide leave under the FMLA or the RIPFMLA, employers with as few as 15 employees are subject to the Family Military Leave Act. For more information on family military leave, please see FMLA: Rhode Island.
Pregnancy Disability Leave and Accommodation
An employer with four or more employees must treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions the same, for all employment related purposes (including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs) as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.
A covered employer must also provide reasonable accommodations, including time off to recover from childbirth, to a pregnant employee upon her request for such accommodations. For more information on pregnancy accommodation, please see Disabilities (ADA): Rhode Island.
Paid Family Leave
A Rhode Island employer must provide up to four weeks of job-protected leave to an employee who is unable to perform their job duties because the employee needs to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted child or a newly placed foster child. During the leave, an employee is eligible to receive temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) as a form of wage replacement benefits. The TCI program is financed solely through employee payroll deductions. For more information on paid family leave, please see FMLA: Rhode Island.
An employer that allows employee sick time or sick leave to be used after the birth of a child must allow that time to be used for the adoption of a child who is 16 years of age or younger. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-48-11.
Paid Sick and Safe Leave
Under the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act (HSFWA), a covered Rhode Island employer must provide paid sick and safe leave to eligible employees.
An employer means any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer, but does not include the federal government.
An employer must provide paid sick and safe leave under the HSFWA if it has an average of 18 or more employees in Rhode Island during the previous payroll year's highest two employment quarters.
When determining employer size, an employer must count all employees, as defined under the HSFWA, who are employed in Rhode Island.
An employer must establish annually whether it employs 18 or more employees using that year's employment data and counting all unique positions. This determination remains in effect for the following 12 months, regardless of whether the employer's workforce decreases.
A new employer must provide paid sick and safe leave once it has 18 or more employees on its payroll. A new employer means any employer that establishes an entity subsequent to January 1 of the requisite calendar year. A firm or establishment that formerly existed, but has changed ownership, is not considered a new employer.
An employer with fewer than 18 employees must provide unpaid leave subject to the annual caps as provided by law, and is prohibited from taking an adverse action against an employee solely based on the employee's use of leave. The HSFWA defines unpaid sick time as time that is used for the qualifying reasons specified in the law.
The law states that construction industry employers are not required to provide paid sick and safe leave to any employees who work under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) until July 1, 2018. The law was originally written to take effect January 1, 2018, giving the construction industry an additional six months to comply. When the effective date was pushed back to July 1, 2018, the date was not changed for construction industry compliance; thus, there is no delay in compliance for such employees subject to a CBA.
An employee is any individual suffered or permitted to work by an employer, including those working on a full-time, part-time or per diem basis.
An employee is considered to be employed in Rhode Island if his or her primary place of employment within the last 12 months was in Rhode Island, regardless of the employer's location. An employee need not spend 50 percent or more of his or her time working in Rhode Island to be considered a Rhode Island employee, as long as the employee spends more time working in Rhode Island than in any other state. +260 RICR 030-05-5.5.2.
An employee does not include:
- Individuals not considered employees under the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act (e.g., outside salespeople, ushers in theaters, certain seasonal resort employees);
- Properly classified independent contractors;
- Federal work-study participants;
- Apprentices and interns;
- Employees of the state or a municipality; and
- Licensed nurses employed by a health care facility on a per diem basis (i.e., is under no obligation to work a regular schedule, works only when he or she indicates he or she is available to work, has no obligation to work when he or she does not indicate availability and receives higher pay than an employee of the same facility performing the same job on a regular schedule).
Qualifying Reasons for Leave
Paid sick and safe leave may be used for the following reasons:
- The employee's or a family member's mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment; or need for preventive medical care;
- Closure of an employee's place of business or child's school or place of care by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
- The employee's or a family member's presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because of exposure to a communicable disease, as determined by health authorities or a health care provider, whether or not the employee or family member has actually contracted the disease; and
- The employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
A family member includes a:
- Child (including a biological, adopted, foster or stepchild; a legal ward; a child of a domestic partner; or a child for whom the employee stands in loco parentis;
- Parent (including a biological, adoptive, foster or stepparent; a legal guardian; or a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee or the employee's spouse or domestic partner when the employee, spouse or domestic partner was a child);
- Parent-in-law (i.e., the parent of the employee's spouse or domestic partner);
- Spouse or domestic partner;
- Sibling (whether related through half blood, whole blood or adoption; a foster sibling; or a stepsibling);
- Care recipient; or
- Member of the employee's household.
A care recipient is a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care (e.g., helping the person obtain diagnostic, preventive, routine or therapeutic health treatment; ensuring the person is safe following domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking).
A member of the employee's household means a person who resides at the same physical address as the employee or a person who the employee claims as a dependent for federal income tax purposes.
Employees may not use paid sick and safe leave as an excuse to be late for work without an authorized purpose.
An employer may discipline an employee, up to and including termination, for the following reasons:
- Committing fraud or abuse by engaging in an activity that is inconsistent with the allowable purposes for paid sick and safe leave; and
- Misusing paid sick and safe leave by exhibiting a clear pattern of taking leave on days just before or after a weekend, vacation or holiday, unless the employee provides reasonable documentation that leave was used for a qualifying reason.
Accrual and Use of Leave
Accrual. Eligible employees may begin to accrue paid sick and safe leave when employment begins or on July 1, 2018, whichever is later. Employees accrue one hour of leave for every 35 hours worked (including hours paid by the employer while collecting paid time off benefits, such as holiday pay, personal time and vacation time), regardless of the location of the work or the location of the employer.
An employee may accrue up to a maximum of 32 hours in calendar year 2019, and 40 hours each year (i.e., a regular and consecutive 12-month period as determined by the employer) after that.
An employer is free to set a higher accrual rate and higher maximum accrual caps.
An employer is permitted to loan sick and safe leave to an employee in advance of accrual by the employee. If an employee who has been advanced or loaned leave time separates from employment, the employer is permitted to deduct any monies owed to it from the final payroll, as long as it has obtained written permission to do so in accordance with +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-14-3.2. The employer should clearly state in its employment policies that, prior to advancing or loaning paid sick and safe leave, employees must agree, in writing, to allow the employer to recover any outstanding amounts owed from the advanced or loaned paid sick and safe leave time via payroll deductions in the final payroll to be issued to the employee.
Exempt employees are assumed to work 40 hours each workweek for accrual purposes. If their normal workweek is fewer than 40 hours, than accrual is based on that normal workweek.
Use. Unless an employer voluntarily sets a higher limit, employees may use up to a maximum of 32 hours in calendar year 2019, and 40 hours each year (i.e., a regular and consecutive 12-month period as determined by the employer) after that.
An employer may require new employees to wait up to 90 days before using paid sick and safe leave. However, the employer must notify new employees in writing of a waiting-period requirement upon hire. Employees may begin using paid sick and safe leave on the day following the employer's established waiting period or on their 91st day of employment, whichever is sooner. No waiting period may be imposed on the accrual of leave.
Temporary employees may use accrued paid sick and safe leave beginning on the 180th calendar day following the beginning of employment. After which, they may use time as it accrues. A temporary employee means any person working for or hired through an employment agency, placement service, training school or center, labor organization, employee-referring source or temporary staffing company who is placed for assignment with other entities.
Seasonal employees may use accrued paid sick and safe leave beginning on the 150th calendar day following the beginning of employment. After which, they may use time as it accrues. A seasonal employee means an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or fewer.
An employee may decide how much leave to use, unless there is a conflict with state or federal law. However, an employer may set a minimum increment of use, up to four hours, as long as the minimum increment is reasonable under the circumstances.
For employees who work irregular schedules, such as those without a definite end time, the employer must use a reasonable method for determining the number of paid sick and safe time hours used.
An employer may not require, as a condition of providing paid sick and safe time, that an employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using paid sick and safe time. However, if both the employer and the employee mutually agree, the employee may work an equivalent number of additional hours or shifts during the same or the next pay period as the hours or shifts not worked due to a qualifying reason under the law. Then, the employee is not required to use accrued paid or unpaid sick and safe leave for the absence, and the employer is not required to pay for sick and safe leave taken during the time frame.
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) family child care providers are subject to the same accrual and use requirements as other employees. However, the implementation, but not the amount, of paid sick and safe leave for CCAP family child care providers is subject to negotiation with the Director of the Department of Administration. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-7. For the purposes of this provision, a year means a calendar year.
CCAP family child care providers are individuals who:
- Participate in CCAP as a Department of Human Services CCAP-approved provider; and
- Are licensed by the Department of Children, Youth and Families to provide child care services in the provider's own home, or are license-exempt but approved by the Department of Human Services to participate in CCAP.
Carryover. Unused, accrued paid sick and safe leave carries over to the following calendar year, unless the employer chooses to:
- Pay employees for the unused time at the end of the year; and
- Provide employees with an amount of paid sick and safe leave that meets or exceeds the law's requirements, which is available for immediate use at the beginning of the subsequent year.
An employer that provides at the beginning of each year at least 32 hours of paid sick and safe leave during calendar year 2019, and 40 hours each calendar year after that, which can be used for the same purposes as required by the law, do not need to track accrual, allow any carryover or pay out. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-4. However, an employer may provide employees with the requisite hours on a pro-rated basis, based upon their start date. +260 RICR 030-05-5.4.1.
An employer in Rhode Island may use a schedule that provides lump sums of sick and safe leave or paid time off to its employees. An employer using these schedules will be in compliance even if an employee's hours vary from week to week. For employees working an average of:
- 37.5-40 hours per week, provide eight hours per month for five months;
- 30 hours per week, provide five hours per month for eight months;
- 24 hours per week, provide four hours per month for 10 months;
- 20 hours per week, provide four hours per month for nine months;
- 16 hours per week, provide three hours per month for 10 months;
- 10 hours per week, provide two hours per month for 10 months; and
- Five hours per week, provide one hour per month for 10 months.
If an employer's regular workday for full-time employees is fewer than eight hours per day, then the employer may provide, at the beginning of the year, five days of paid sick and safe leave consisting of the number of hours per day that constitute a full-time employee's workday.
An employer that provides 40 or more hours of PTO or vacation time that may also be used as paid sick and safe leave consistent with the law are not required to provide additional sick and safe leave to employees who use all their time for other purposes and need paid sick and safe leave later in the year. The employer's leave policies must make clear that additional time will not be provided.
An employer may have different paid leave policies for different groups of employees, provided that all policies meet the law's minimum requirements.
Sick and safe leave must be paid at the same hourly rate and with the same benefits, including health care benefits, as the employee normally earns during hours worked. The hourly rate may not be less than the state minimum wage. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-3. An employer may not change the pay rate calculation method used during the year; once selected, the same method must be used throughout the year.
The regulations define same hourly rate to mean the following:
- For employees paid on an hourly basis, the employee's regular hourly rate;
- For employees who receive different hourly rates of pay from the same employer, either:
- The wages the employee would have been paid for the hours when leave is used, if the employee had worked; or
- The blended rate, determined by taking the weighted average of all regular rates of pay over the previous pay period, month, quarter or other established period of time the employer customarily uses to calculate blended rates for similar purposes. Whichever method the employers elect must be used consistently throughout a benefit year;
- For employees paid a salary, the employee's total earnings in the previous pay period divided by their total hours worked during that pay period. Exempt employees are assumed to have worked 40 hours in each week. If their normal workweek is fewer than 40 hours, then the same hourly rate is calculated based on the employee's normal workweek;
- For employees paid on a piece work or fee-for-service basis, a reasonable calculation of the wages or fees the employee would have received for the piece work or service if the employee had worked;
- For employees paid on commission, the greater of the base wage or the state minimum wage; and
- For tipped employees who ordinarily receive the tipped minimum wage or minimum wage for employees receiving gratuities, the state minimum wage.
The same hourly rate does not include:
- Sums paid as commissions, drawing accounts, bonuses or other incentive pay based on sales or production;
- Sums excluded under federal law, including contributions irrevocably made by an employer to a trustee or third person according to a bona fide plan for providing old age, retirement, life, accident or health insurance, and any other employee benefit plans; and
- Overtime, holiday pay or other premium rates. A differential rate (i.e., a different wage paid for the same work performed under differing conditions, such as different hours) is not a premium and must be considered as regular wages for the purpose of determining the same hourly rate.
Changes in Employment
An employer is not required to pay out unused, accrued paid sick and safe leave upon an employee's termination, resignation, retirement or other separation from employment.
If an employee is rehired within 135 days of the separation, then previously accrued but unused leave must be reinstated. In addition, the employee is entitled to use leave and accrue additional leave immediately upon beginning work.
An employee who is transferred to a separate division, entity or location within the state is entitled to all of the paid sick and safe leave accrued at the prior division, entity or location and is entitled to use it as provided by law.
When a different employer succeeds or takes the place of an existing employer, all employees of the original employer who remain employed by the successor employer within the state are entitled to all previously accrued sick and safe leave and are entitled to use it.
Employee Notice Requirements
An employer must provide paid sick and safe leave upon an employee's request. The request may be made orally, in writing, by electronic means or by any other means acceptable to the employer. When possible, the request must include the expected duration of the absence.
An employer cannot require an employee to disclose details relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual contact, stalking or health information as a condition of providing leave.
Employees must provide advance notice within a reasonable time frame for foreseeable absences, and must make a reasonable effort to schedule the absence in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the employer's operations. A foreseeable absence is one that is planned at least 24 hours in advance of when it is required.
An employer that requires notice when the employee's need to use paid sick and safe leave is not foreseeable must provide a written policy that contains reasonable notification procedures. An employer that does not provide this written policy may not deny an employee's use of paid sick and safe leave based on noncompliance with the policy.
Food employees. If a food employee (i.e., an individual who works with unpackaged food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces) provides notice of the intent to use paid sick and safe leave, the employer may ask if the reason for the absence would trigger the employer's obligations under the Rhode Island Food Code, +216 RICR 050-10-1.
If the employee answers in the negative, the employer may not ask further questions about the nature of the illness.
If the employee answers in the affirmative, the employer may inquire about the symptoms on a limited basis to determine what steps it must take in order to remain in compliance the Rhode Island Food Code. If the employee states that he or she is suffering from any of the symptoms described in the Rhode Island Food Code, the employer must follow any actions as required under the Rhode Island Food Code.
Documentation requirements do not apply to food employees when in conflict with the Rhode Island Food Code.
Employee Documentation Requirements
For absences of more than three consecutive workdays, an employer may require reasonable documentation that paid sick and safe leave was used for a qualifying reason and must accept the documentation within a reasonable time period. However, the employer must provide written notification of this requirement in advance of an employee's use of paid sick and safe leave, in an employee handbook or employment policy.
The employer's verification requirements may not result in an unreasonable burden or expense on employees. Unreasonable means the total cost to the employee to obtain certification regarding the absence is more than two times his or her hourly pay rate. In determining the total cost to the employee, costs such as transportation costs and administrative, governmental or medical fees are included. If the total cost is unreasonable, the employer may require the employee to submit a signed statement indicating that the use of paid sick and safe leave was for purposes allowed by law.
In addition, verification requirements may not exceed privacy or verification requirements otherwise established by law.
Reasonable documentation for sick leave includes documentation signed by a health care professional (i.e., any person licensed under federal or state law to provide medical or emergency services, including doctors, nurses and emergency room personnel) indicating that the sick leave was necessary.
Reasonable documentation for safe leave includes:
- The employee's written statement that the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, and that the leave was taken for a qualifying reason;
- A police report indicating that the employee or a family member was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking;
- A court document indicating that the employee or a family member is involved in legal action related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking; and
- A signed statement from a victim and witness advocate affirming that the employee or a family member is receiving services from a victim services organization or is involved in legal action related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
The employee may choose which document to present.
The employer may not require that the documentation explain the nature of the illness or the details of the domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, unless required by existing government regulation or law.
The law allows an employer to require written documentation for an employee's use of paid sick and safe leave that occurs within two weeks before the employee's final scheduled day of work before termination.
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training has indicated that, unless the employee provides reasonable documentation, an employer may discipline the employee for misuse of safe and sick leave if there is a clear pattern of taking leave on days just before or after a weekend, vacation or holiday.
An employer must treat as confidential any information that it possesses about an employee's or a family member's health or pertaining to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The information may not be disclosed except to the affected employee, with the employee's permission or as required by existing regulation or statute. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-11.
An employer is permitted to disclose, on a limited basis, as part of its defense in any administrative or judicial proceeding, whether an employee has accrued, used or requested to use leave benefits.
An employer is also permitted to disclose whether the employee adhered to a previously established and distributed employer policy while using leave benefits. However, the employer may not disclose details of such use, including, but not limited to, the details of any illness, injury, incident or legal action related to the use of paid sick and safe leave.
An employer may not take an adverse action against any employee for making use of the rights and protections provided in the HSFWA or implementing regulations. +260 RICR 030-05-5.6.1.
An adverse action means the denial of any right guaranteed under the HSFWA and regulations, and:
- Any threat;
- Reduction of hours;
- Reporting or threatening to report the employee's or a family member's citizenship or immigration status to a federal, state or local agency; or
- Any other action that would cause harm to the employee in any way.
Interaction With Other Laws and Policies
Nothing in the law prohibits an employer from adopting a policy that provides greater rights or benefits than required by law or diminishes an employer's obligation to comply with any contract, collective bargaining agreement, employment benefit plan or other agreement that provides greater sick and safe leave time than required by law. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-12.
Any employer with a paid sick and safe leave policy or paid time off (PTO) policy that makes available at least 32 hours of PTO during calendar year 2019, and 40 hours per calendar year after that, and any employer that offers unlimited paid sick and safe leave or PTO, are exempt from the accrual and carryover provisions of the law. +R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-57-4.
A full-time employee working a full year must accumulate the minimum amount of sick and safe leave as required by law; otherwise, employees should be provided the requisite hours on a pro-rated basis, based upon their start date and the number of hours worked. +260 RICR 030-05-5.4.1.
Enforcement and Penalties
An employer that violates the HSFWA may be liable for the following penalties:
- A $100 penalty for a first violation; and
- A $100-$500 penalty per offense for each subsequent violation.
Each day of violation constitutes a separate offense.
To determine the penalty amount, the following factors will be taken into consideration:
- The size of the employer's business;
- The good faith of the employer;
- The gravity of the violation;
- The history of previous violations; and
- Whether the violation was an innocent mistake or willful.
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT) indicated that, until January 1, 2019, it would not assess fines for HSFWA violations if it found that an employer acted in good faith, but an employee would receive due compensation. Employers should note that the law does permit employees to sue in court for any alleged violations of the law.
Key Action Steps
To help ensure compliance with Rhode Island's paid sick and safe leave law:
- Review and revise, if necessary, paid sick leave and/or PTO policies and procedures to ensure they meet the law's requirements;
- Prepare employee handbook policies or other written guidance to notify employees of their rights and obligations under the law See Paid Sick and Safe Leave Handbook Statement [18+ Employees; Accrual Method]: Rhode Island; Sick and Safe Leave Handbook Statement [1-17 Employees; Accrual Method]: Rhode Island;
- Ensure timekeeping, payroll and benefits systems properly calculate and track accrued and used paid sick and safe leave. If a third-party payroll processor is used, ensure it is aware of and complies with the law's requirements; and
- Train supervisory and managerial employees, as well as HR and payroll personnel, on the law's requirements.
School Involvement Leave
Rhode Island employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide eligible employees with up to 10 hours of leave during a 12-month period in order for the employee to attend school conferences or other school-related activities for a child of whom the employee is the parent, foster parent or guardian. Employees are eligible for leave if they work an average of 30 or more hours per week and are employed for 12 consecutive months.
Employees who take leave under this law are required to provide 24 hours' notice of the leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave so as not to unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
Employers are not required to pay employees for school involvement leave; however, employees are permitted to substitute any accrued paid vacation leave or other appropriate paid leave for any part of the leave.
Covered employers should consider including a School Involvement Leave policy in their handbook, if they have one, to educate employees about the availability of school involvement leave and to demonstrate compliance with Rhode Island law.
Jury Duty Leave
All employers in Rhode Island must provide jury duty leave to employees. An employer is not required to pay employees for time taken to attend jury duty. For more information on jury duty leave, please see Jury Duty: Rhode Island.
Witness Duty Leave
An employer must allow an employee to take unpaid time off from work to respond to a subpoena to give evidence or testify before a court (whether within the state or not) or before any judicial, quasi-judicial or another administrative body or entity with the authority to issue subpoenas.
An employee must promptly notify their employer that they have been served with a subpoena and are required to attend a court or other covered hearing.
An employer may not terminate, threaten or otherwise take any adverse action against an employee regarding their compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment as a result of the employee's absence from work to comply with a subpoena. In short, an employer should treat employees taking leave due to a subpoena the same way that it treats employees taking all other types of unpaid leave and should train HR and supervisory personnel to do so.
Claims of violations of the law must be filed within three years from the date of the violation. An employer that violates this law may be liable for damages, including actual damages, compensatory damages and reasonable attorney fees incurred by the employee.
Crime Victim Leave
An employer with 50 or more employees must provide an employee with an unpaid leave of absence in order to attend court proceedings related to a crime when the employee is the victim of the crime at issue in the proceedings. The employer may limit the leave if it creates a significant difficulty or hardship on the employer's business.
Prior to taking leave, the employee must provide the employer with a copy of the notification of court proceedings.
An employee may elect to use or an employer may require the employee to use the employee's accrued paid vacation, personal leave or sick leave.
An employer may not take any unfavorable employment action (e.g., termination, demotion) against an employee who takes leave under this law. +R.I. Gen. Laws Sect. 12-28-13.
Covered employers should consider including a Crime Victim Leave policy in their handbook, if they have one, to inform employees about the availability of leave for those who have been the victim of a crime and to demonstrate compliance with Rhode Island's crime victims leave law.
Members of the National Guard or US armed forces reserves are entitled to unpaid leave for training and are entitled to reinstatement with the same status, pay and seniority. For more information on military leave, please see USERRA: Rhode Island.
Emergency Responder Leave
The Volunteer Firefighter and Emergency Technician Protection Act requires a Rhode Island employer to provide unpaid time off to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians responding to an emergency.
Specifically, upon prior notice by an employee, an employer may not terminate or otherwise discipline an employee for failing to report to work at the beginning of their regular working hours because the employee is responding to an emergency in their capacity as a volunteer member of a fire or ambulance department. The employer is not required to pay the employee for any hours that the employee fails to report for work.
An employer may ask an employee to submit a statement signed by the employee's fire or ambulance department chief certifying the date and time the employee responded to and returned from the emergency. An employee must inform their employer or immediate supervisor of all reasons for any failure to report to work as required.
Responding to an emergency means responding to, working at the scene of or returning from a fire, rescue, emergency medical service call, hazardous materials incident or natural or man-made disaster, where the emergency occurs during a period other than an employee's normal working hours.
A volunteer member means a volunteer, call, reserve or permanent-intermittent firefighter or emergency medical technician, but does not include anyone who has been paid for over 975 hours of service in such capacity over the preceding six months.
An employee who is terminated or disciplined in violation of this law must be immediately reinstated to their former position without a reduction of pay, seniority or other benefits. The employee must also receive any lost pay or benefits during which the termination or other disciplinary action was in effect.
An action to enforce the law must be taken within one year of the date of the alleged violation in the superior court in the county in which the action occurred or in which the employer resides or transacts business.
A covered employer should consider including an Emergency Responder Leave policy in their handbook, if they have one, to educate employees about the availability of leave for certain volunteer emergency responders and to demonstrate compliance with Rhode Island law.
Employers should be aware that certain leaves are protected by state law and therefore it should train its supervisory employees not to take action against an employee because he or she took leave or indicated that he or she may take the leave in the near future. See Training and Development: Federal.
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