Effective July 1, 2018, Rhode Island generally requires employers with 18 or more employees to provide employees with paid sick leave (and requires employers with fewer than 18 employees to provide certain amounts of unpaid sick leave).
Employees (of employers with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island) generally must accrue a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours during calendar year 2018; 32 hours during 2019; and 40 hours per year starting in 2020 (unless the employer chooses to provide a higher annual limit in both accrual and use).
Paid sick leave begins to accrue at the commencement of employment or July 1, 2018, whichever is later. An employer may provide all paid sick leave that an employee is expected to accrue in a year at the beginning of the year.
Note: Employees who are exempt from the overtime requirements under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (§ (a)(1)) will be assumed to work 40 hours in each work week for purposes of paid sick leave accrual (unless their normal work week is less than 40 hours—in which case paid sick and safe leave time accrues based upon that normal work week).
At its discretion, an employer may loan sick and safe leave time to an employee in advance of accrual by such employee.
An employer may require a waiting period of up to 90 days for newly hired employees. During this waiting period, an employee will accrue earned sick time under the law or the employer's policy (§ 28-57-4(b))—but is not permitted to use the earned sick time until after he or she has completed the waiting period.
Click here (§§ j and k) for details on waiting periods for temporary and seasonal employees.
Carryover, Payment of Unused Leave, and Reinstatement
Paid sick and safe leave time will be carried over to the following calendar year. However, an employee's use of paid sick and safe leave time provided under the law may not exceed 24 hours during calendar year 2018; 32 hours during calendar year 2019; and 40 hours per year starting in 2020.
Alternatively, in lieu of carryover of unused earned paid sick and safe leave time from one year to the next, an employer may pay an employee for unused earned paid sick and safe leave time at the end of a year and provide the employee with an amount of paid sick and safe leave that meets or exceeds the requirements of the law that is available for the employee's immediate use at the beginning of the subsequent year.
However, the law does not require financial or other reimbursement to an employee from an employer upon the employee's termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment for accrued paid sick and safe leave time that has not been used.
Note: When there is a separation from employment and the employee is rehired within 135 days of separation by the same employer, previously accrued paid sick and safe leave time that had not been used must be reinstated. Further, the employee must be entitled to use accrued paid sick and safe leave time and accrue additional sick and safe leave time at the re-commencement of employment.
Using Leave and Requesting Time Off
Paid sick and safe leave time must be provided for:
- An employee's (or care of the employee's family member with) a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; an employee's (or a family member's) need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or an employee's (or family member's) need for 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
- Time off needed when the employee or his or her family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
An employee generally may decide how much sick time to use. However, an employer may set a minimum increment, not to exceed 4 hours per day, for the use of sick time, provided such minimum increment is reasonable under the circumstances.
An employer may not require—as a condition of providing earned paid sick and safe time under the law—that the employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is using paid sick and safe leave. Click here (§ k) for more.
Employee Notice and Employer Procedures
When the use of paid sick and safe leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide notice to the employer in advance of the use of the leave and must make a reasonable effort to schedule leave in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the employer's operations.
An employer that requires notice of the need to use earned paid sick and safe leave where the need is not foreseeable must provide a written policy that contains procedures for the employee to provide notice. An employer that has not provided the employee a copy of its written policy for providing such notice may not deny earned paid sick and safe leave to the employee based on non-compliance with such a policy.
For paid sick and safe leave of more than 3 consecutive work days, an employer may require reasonable documentation that the paid sick and safe leave has been used for a purpose covered by the law (§ a), if the employer has notified the employee in writing of this requirement in advance of the employee's use of paid sick and safe leave.
Note: An employer generally may not require that the documentation explain the nature of the illness or the details of the domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Click here (§§ f and g) for more on certification and verification.
Employer Policies and Allowable Substitution
The law does not prohibit an employer from adopting a paid sick and safe leave policy that provides greater rights or benefits than those provided under the law. Click here (§ 28-57-12) for more details.
Employers may have different paid leave policies for different groups of employees, provided that all policies meet the minimum requirements of the law.
Employers that prefer not to track accrual of paid sick leave over the course of the benefit year may also use certain schedules for providing lump sums of sick leave or paid time off to their employees. Employers using these schedules will be in compliance even if an employee's hours vary from week to week. Click here (§ 28-57-14(b)) for the alternative lump sum schedules.
Additionally, employers that provide 40 or more hours of paid time off or vacation to employees that also may be used as paid sick and safe leave (consistent with the law) are not required to provide additional sick leave to employees who use all their time for other purposes and need paid sick and safe leave later in the year--provided that the employers' leave policies make clear that additional time will not be provided.
Employers with Policies
Any employer with a paid leave time off policy or paid sick and safe leave policy who makes available at least 24 hoursduring calendar year 2018; 32 hours during calendar year 2019; and 40 hours per calendar year beginning in 2020 of paid time off or paid sick and safe leave to employees—or any employer who offers unlimited paid time off or paid sick and safe leave—is exempt from certain provisions (§ 28-57-5(a), (b), (c) and (e)) of the law.
Employers that provide at least 24 hours during calendar year 2018; 32 hours during calendar year 2019; and 40 hoursper calendar year beginning in 2020 of paid sick or safe leave or paid time off (that can be used for purposes consistent with the law) at the beginning of each benefit year do not need to track accrual, allow any carry-over, or payout.
Employers with Fewer than 18 Employees
Any employer that employs fewer than 18 employees is exempt from the requirement to offer paid sick leave under the law (§ 28-57-5). However, any such employer may not take an adverse action against an employee solely based upon the employee's use of up to 24 hours of unpaid leave during calendar year 2018; 32 hours of unpaid leave during calendar year 2019; and 40 hours of unpaid leave per calendar year beginning in 2020—subject to certain provisions of the law (§ 28-57-6 and § 28-57-10).
Click here for more exemptions.
Additional information, including details on (among other things) confidentiality and nondisclosure, is available in the text of the law.
Please Note: The state laws summaries featured on this site are for general informational purposes only. In addition to state law, certain municipalities may enact legislation that imposes different requirements. State and local laws change frequently and, as such, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information featured in the State Laws section. For more detailed information regarding state or local laws, please contact your state labor department or the appropriate local government agency.