New Senate Chairs Appointed
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, announced the appointment of two new committee chairs last week. Senator William Conley, Jr. (D-East Providence) was named the new Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Conley is the owner of the Law Office of William J. Conley, Jr. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and served on the Judiciary Committee and Committee on Environment and Agriculture. Senator Erin Lynch Prata was appointed Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee following the elevation of Senator Michael McCaffrey to Majority Leader. Chair Lynch Prata (D-Warwick/Cranston) is an attorney in the private firm Lynch, Bernard & Lynch. Prata Lynch was elected to the senate in 2008 and has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Labor Committee Hears Testimony on Employee Benefits
On Thursday, the House Labor Committee heard testimony lasting five hours on the paid leave bill, minimum wage increase proposals, efforts to increase the tipped wage and a change in overtime application rules. Members of the business community gave of their time to attend as did proponents of the bills.
What became abundantly clear is that proponents believe it is the responsibility of employers to provide time off to employees not only if they are sick, but if any member of the employee’s family or friends are sick, have preventative health care appointments or are facing domestic violence issues. Story after story was relayed about how difficult it is to get elderly parents to doctor appointments and that the responsibility for caretaking falls to women who are taken advantage of in the workplace. Employers talked about the difficulties of covering employee shifts without notice that an employee will not be coming to work. The paid leave bill allows for “no call, no show, no problem.” The employee can be out for 72 hours without notice to the employer and the job must be held for that employee.
A representative of Blue Sun Campaigns testified that they conducted a study of Rhode Islanders to gauge support for paid leave. The pollster testified that 52.4% of those polled, strongly favored the bill and another 29.9% said they support some form of paid leave. The Blue Sun Campaigns website lists its mission as “Blue Sun Campaigns knows that winning elections at every level – local, state, and federal – is necessary to resist hate and promote progressive ideals. We have the experience of hundreds of campaigns, helping diverse candidates in more than a dozen states win elections and fight for for social justice.”
The Chamber testified against the bill along with other business coalition members. Please contact your state representative and state senator. Tell them the sick pay bill is unworkable.
House Labor to Meet Thursday on More Employee Benefit Bills
On Thursday at approximately 4:30pm the House Labor Committee will meet in the House Lounge to hear testimony on bullying in the workplace, employment at will elimination and other benefit bills:
H.5604, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – TDI Coverage would allow RI resident who work for an out-of-state nongovernmental employer, to apply for coverage under RI’s TDI program. An individual must have a RI driver’s license or a RI ID to be eligible for the program, and the person must financially contribute to the program for one year before benefits can be taken.
H.5847, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages is gives employees a right to place a lien on an employer’s property. This legislation is slightly different than the bill filed in 2016, but still maintains some of the same onerous policies. Under the bill, if an employee believes he/she has been paid improperly and is owed wages, that employee can give written notice to the employer of the amount of wages owed and a description of the employer’s property on which the employee plans to place a lien. The notice must be sent certified mail, return receipt requested. The employer then has 30 days to file a complaint in Superior Court. If the employer files the complaint, the court can place a temporary lien on the property and take 30 days to determine if the wages are actually owed to the employee. If the court determines the employee is in fact owed wages, the employer must pay all of the employee’s court costs and attorney fees. If the court determines the wages are not owed AND the case was frivolous or in bad faith, the court MAY order the employee to pay the employer’s court costs and attorney fees. In the event the employer fails to file a complaint in Superior Court, the employee may file the lien in the land evidence records and that lien is binding. The Chamber OPPOSES the passage of H.5847.
H.5862, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Healthy Workplace establishes a private right of action against employers and employees for workplace bullying, harassment and other abusive conduct that is tolerated by employers.
H.5933, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Wrongful Discharge From Employment basically ends Rhode Island's adoption of the "employment-at-will" legal doctrine. Employees could only be terminated for good cause, and could subject the employer to punitive damages if the termination was considered to be done with malice.
The following new bills were filed:
House Bill No. 6033, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- RHODE ISLAND HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE (Authorize the RI health benefit exchange to seek a waiver under the Affordable Care Act to allow qualified small business owners/sole proprietors to purchase qualified health benefit plans offered by the exchange directly from a registered carrier.)
House Bill No. 6052, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - MINIMUM WAGE (Allows employers to pay the greater or 75% of the state minimum wage rate, or the federal minimum wage rate to employees eighteen (18) years or younger during the first six hundred eighty (680) hours or ninety (90) days of their employment.)
House Bill No. 6053, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - PAYMENT OF WAGES (Eliminates repealed statute references and creates a mechanism for workers to enforce their existing right to continuation of medical benefits, reinstatement after returning from being a temporary caregiver and Sunday pay wage laws.)
House Bill No. 6057, AN ACT RELATING TO PROPERTY - COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE BROKER LIEN (Provides that failure to record a notice of lien by the real estate broker in accordance with chapter 49 of title 34, the commercial estate broker lien act, would result in dismissal of a complaint pursuant to the act.)
Senate Bill No. 631, AN ACT RELATING TO CORPORATIONS, ASSOCIATIONS AND PARTNERSHIPS - RHODE ISLAND LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY ACT (Provides 5 years for LLC to wind up and close its affairs.)
Senate Bill No. 659, AN ACT RELATING TO PROPERTY - FORMS AND EFFECT OF CONVEYANCES (Provides that all transfers of a mortgage interest on residential property be recorded so as to provide a clean chain of title for consumers to track the owner of their mortgage loans.)
Senate Bill No. 675, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - EMPLOYMENT SECURITY - BENEFITS (Amends our worksharing law by allowing employers more flexibility in the reduction of work hours among its employees and by allowing more leeway on the start date of an adopted worksharing plan.)
Senate Bill No. 678, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE (Expands TDI benefits, changes the calculation of the taxable wage base, includes state and municipal employees; increases the maximum number of weeks an employee can collect TDI and TCI; and expands TCI benefits for the care of siblings and grandchildren.)
Senate Bill No. 679, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - TEMPORARY DISABILITY INSURANCE - COVERAGE (Allows Rhode Island residents who work for an out-of-state nongovernmental employer to apply for coverage under Rhode Island's Temporary Disability Insurance program.)
Senate Bill No. 689, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - SALES AND USE TAXES (Raises the local hotel tax rate from one percent to two and one-half percent.)