Guide to Rhode Island Minimum Wage, Sick Leave, and FMLA Laws.

Rhode Island increases minimum wage while preempting local minimum wage.

Rhode Island first started increasing the state’s minimum wage in 2004 when it increased minimum wage to $6.75.  Then in 2014, the State raised minimum wage again to $8 an hour, which increased again in 2015. In the same legislation Rhode Island also preempted local minimum wage laws.

One unique aspect around Rhode Island’s preemptive law was that it was introduced, passed and promoted by House and Senate democrats who could see that local minimum wage laws create a strain on businesses and makes compliance with a patchwork of law more difficult and costly for entrepreneurs.

At the time of the preemption law, Providence, R.I. was close to passing a new minimum wage for hotel workers that would have required a $15 minimum wage, nearly double what the statewide minimum wage was at the time.

The preemption was included in the ammendment to the minimum wage law and forbids all municipalities from establishing or mandating employers to pay any minimum wage above the state or federal minimum wage law.

Currently Rhode Island’s minimum wage is set at $9.60 an hour, although it does have specific exceptions. Full time students who are 18 and under have a minimum wage of $8.64 an hour, while 14 and 15 yr olds have a minimum wage of $7.24 an hour. Tipped employees’ minimum wage is set at $3.89 an hour.

Employee Exceptions to Minimum Wage Current Minimum Wage
16-18 yr full time students working in: non-profit, religious, liberal, community service organizations $8.64 an hour
14-25 yr olds working less than 24 hours a week $7.20 an hour
Tipped employees and Incentive based employees #3.89 an hour

In the 2017 legislative session, Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increase minimum wage to $10.50 an hour. The bill has made it to committee, but has not yet passed.

Rhode Island Introduces a Sick Leave Law

Although Rhode Island already has a Family Medical Leave Law, the state has introduced a sick leave bill that would provide one of the most generous sick leave laws to employees.

The bill H 5413, named the “Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act” and covers all employees within the state.

If it passes, Rhode Island would become the second state to implement both a family leave law and a sick leave law. Only California currently has both Family Leave and Sick Leave Laws.  

Overview of the Proposed Sick Leave Law

The bill would provide 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked and employees would be able to earn up to 56 hours a year, or 7 days of sick leave.

Employees can begin to use sick leave after 90 days of employment, but they start accruing sick leave on the first date of employment.

Employers are given the option of paying out sick leave at the end of each year or of carrying it over to the following year. All unused sick leave is to be carried over to the next year, but

The new law is very comprehensive and covers employees of individuals, in addition to all private businesses and state and local governments. The only exception to the sick leave coverage is employees of the United States Government.

The law allows employees to take time off for illness, injury and health conditions, both mental and physical, for both the employee or their family  members. It also provides time for closures of workplaces, schools, and places of care due to a public health emergency.

That includes when the employee or a family member has been exposed to a communicable disease, even if they haven’t yet contracted it.

Lastly, paid sick leave is provided for victims of domestic violence so that they can seek safety, redress, legal and civil, and take time for professional services to recover from the trauma they have survived.

Sick leave is available for employees and their family members. The family members that are allowed under the proposed bill would include parents, children, spouse or domestic partner, grandparent and grandchild, sibling and any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is akin to a family relationship.

The last definition of a “family member” can include nearly anyone for whom the employee considers the relationship close.

Rhode Island recognizes relationships that are a biological, foster, adoptive, step, legal wards, parents or spouses of domestic partners, in-law, and in loco parentis status.

The proposed sick leave law also provides for a sick leave bank of 1 year. That means that if employees are rehired with the same employer within 1 year, all previously accrued and unused sick leave must be reinstated to the employee.

Employees are protected from retaliation, must be provided notice by the employers if the law passes.

Unfortunately, like many other sick leave laws, employers who fail to maintain adequate records are assumed to be liable and guilty of violating the law. This is especially important as the bill states that employers must maintain records for 3 years, but doesn’t specifically state which records or how comprehensive they must be.

Fines for violating the proposed law will be failry stiff. The first offense can cost an employer $500-$3,000 and subsequent violations can cost up to $5,000 for each offense.

Businesses in Rhode Island Must Carefully Navigate Multiple Employment Laws

Should the proposed sick leave law fail to pass, businesses in Rhode Island must still navigate a myriad of state and federal employment laws relating to leaves, pay, benefits, and overtime. Fortunately, SwipeClock works with employers and payroll companies to provide comprehensive technology that maintains full records and helps companies to maintain their bottom lines.

SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws.

Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.

About SwipeClock

SwipeClock is a leading provider of cloud-based integrated workforce management solutions that include automated time and attendance, advanced scheduling, and leave management capabilities.

The company’s products, including TimeWorksPlus, TimeSimplicity and Workforce Management Clock enable employers to manage their most important and expensive asset-employees-by transforming labor from a cost of doing business to a competitive advantage.

SwipeClock’s workforce management solutions are sold through over 850 partners that empower more than 26,000 businesses to lower labor costs, comply with regulatory mandates, and maximize their profits. For more information, please visit www.swipeclock.com.

Continue to follow this blog for updated status of the proposed bill.

Resources

Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act

Rhode Island’s Minimum Wage and Preemptive Law

Rhode Island’s Website on Minimum Wage

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated May 23, 2017

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