Employer Alert: New Paid Sick Leave Law in Rhode Island

October 3, 2017

By: Sheri L. Pizzi, Matthew R. Plain, Greg Vanden-Eykel, and Kristen M. Whittle

Governor Gina Raimondo recently signed the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, which will go into effect in July 2018. The act provides earned paid sick time to over 100,000 employees in Rhode Island.

What employers need to know

Employers with eighteen or more employees will be required to provide employees with earned paid sick leave for their own or a family member's injury or illness, medical diagnosis, or preventive care. The paid leave can also be used as "safe time" for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking, or used when an employee's place of business or a child's school is closed due to a public health emergency or in some circumstances when the employee or a family member poses a threat of exposure to a communicable disease.

The number of earned sick days will be phased in over a two year period, ultimately reaching up to five per year:

  • Up to three earned sick days as of July 2018
  • Up to four earned sick days beginning January 1, 2019
  • Up to five earned sick days beginning January 1, 2020

Specifically, employees must accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave time for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours in 2018, 32 hours in 2019, and 40 hours in 2020. Earned paid sick time begins accruing at the start of employment, with employees becoming eligible to use the time after 90 calendar days. Employers should note that the new law will impose accrual-tracking, notice, posting and record-keeping requirements, as well as potential fines if they are found in violation of these rules.

Employers must allow employees to carry over any earned but unused paid sick time to the next calendar year. In lieu of carryover, employers may instead pay their employees for earned but unused time at the end of the year.

Employers with fewer than seventeen employees will not be required to provide earned paid sick time, but will be required to offer unpaid sick leave without adverse consequences to employees.

For more information

If you have questions, please contact a member of Barton Gilman’s employment team at 401.273.7171.

Barton Gilman's employment team provides comprehensive legal guidance to a wide variety of Rhode Island employers on all aspects of the employment cycle - from hiring through separation - including personnel policies and handbooks, and representation before state and federal courts and agencies. To learn more, please visit www.bartongilman.com.