Rhode Island’s Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act

Paid sick leave laws continue to be a growing trend in the United States. Rhode Island is the latest state to join seven states and Washington, D.C. in requiring paid sick leave. Under the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act, effective July 1, 2018, employers with 18 employees must allow employees to accrue and use paid sick and safe leave for themselves or family members. A family member is a child, parent, spouse, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partner, sibling, care recipient, or member of the employee’s household. All employees are covered except for independent contractors, subcontractors, work study participants, apprenticeships and interns.

The leave can be used for:

  • mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of an employee or family member;
  • medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of an employee or family member;
  • preventative medical care for an employee or family member;
  • 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;
  • care after health authorities or health care provider determined that the employee’s or family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because of their exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the employee or family member has actually contracted the communicable disease; or
  • service or care as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Employees are entitled to accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick and safe leave time for every 35 hours worked up to a maximum of 24 hours during the calendar year of 2018, 32 hours during calendar year 2019 and up to a maximum of 40 hours per year thereafter. Employees will begin to accrue paid sick and safe leave when employment begins or July 1, 2018, whichever is later. Employers can set a 90-day waiting period for newly hired employees, during which time leave can accrue. Temporary and seasonal employees have extended wait times for using accrued leave.

Employers with a paid sick leave time off policy that meets the minimum requirements of the Act would not be obligated to provide additional leave. Paid sick and safe leave request can be made orally, in writing, electronically or any other means acceptable to the employer. If the leave is foreseeable, employees must provide notice of the need for time off in advance. When possible, the request must include the leave’s expected duration. Employers that want to require notice for unforeseeable absences must provide a written policy that includes how the employee must provide the notice. If a written policy is not provided by the employer, the employer cannot deny earned paid sick and safe leave time to the employee based on non-compliance with such a policy. Employers may request reasonable documentation supporting the need for the leave if the paid sick and safe leave is more than three consecutive work days.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training will coordinate implementation and enforcement of the Act. The department is expected to release a posting in English and in all languages spoken by more than five percent of Rhode Island’s population that will provide information about the new paid sick and safe leave. We will continue to monitor the legislation, and provide new updates. Make sure to visit our website.

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