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Rhode Island Latest State to Adopt Paid Sick Days

October 5, 2017
 
Rhode Island’s governor recently signed a sick-leave law to take effect on July 1, 2018. The Ocean State thus joins Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont among New England states with sick leave laws.
 
On the west coast, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington have also adopted sick-leave laws.   
 
Since 2008, 39 cities, counties or states have passed paid sick-day laws. Some of the cities include Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Pittsburgh, New York City and Washington D.C.      
 
The Rhode Island law is called the “Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act.” The law requires employers with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island to provide one hour of paid leave for every 35 hours worked up to a statutory ceiling, like the Massachusetts law. Unlike the Massachusetts law, it will phase in over the following two years until there is a maximum of five sick days per year. The schedule is as follows: 
 
July 1, 2018 – up to 3 days (24 hours) 
July 1, 2019 – up to 4 days (32 hours) 
July 1, 2020 – up to 5 days (40 hours) 
 
Employers with fewer than 18 employees in Rhode Island must provide the same amounts of job protected leave, but it may be unpaid. 
 
The new Rhode Island law explicitly states that no municipality (e.g. Providence) may require an employer to provide more paid leave benefits than what is required under the state law. 
 
Unlike in Massachusetts, seasonal workers are exempt from the benefits of the law, but they are still protected from retaliation at work if they take unpaid time off. 
 
Employees will begin to accrue eligibility beginning July 1, 2018 or the date they begin employment -  whichever is later. Most new hires will accrue sick time immediately, but must wait up to 90 calendar days to begin to use the time. Temporary employees must wait up to 180 days to qualify and seasonal workers must wait up to 150 days. 
 
The new law provides that the sick time may be used for the following reasons: 
 
An employee's mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;  
  • an employee's need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;  
  • an employee's need for preventive medical care;  
Care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition;  
  • Care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; care of a family member who needs preventive medical care; 
 
Closure of the employee's place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or an employee's need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or care for oneself or a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider 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
  
Time off needed when the employee or a member of the employee's family is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.  
 
Employers who are already providing their employees with paid leave that meets the new standards will be exempt from the law. Any employer intending to rely on its Massachusetts sick leave policy needs to review the four permitted reasons listed above, especially number 3, to make sure their policy complies. Otherwise you will need to adopt a Rhode Island specific policy.  
 
AIM members interested in details of the new law may access a copy here
 
Please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 800-470-6277 if you have questions about this or any other HR-related issue.   
 
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