Be aware that the Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act (PSSLA) goes into full effect July 1, 2018.
Employers with 18 or more employees – defined as the number of employees in a business’s two highest quarters of 2017 (for businesses formed in 2018, the trigger for compliance begins as soon as the 18th employee is hired) – must begin accruing paid leave July 1, 2018, at a rate of 1 hour of paid leave time for every 35 hours worked. Employees are entitled to accrue up to 24 hours of paid leave in 2018. In the alternative, an employer may give employees 24 hours of paid leave starting July 1, and avoid the need to accrue time. Your policy manual MUST have a section that tells employees how to provide notice to the employer of an unforeseen need to take leave, otherwise an employee does not have to notify an employer that he/she intends to return to work for up to 3 consecutive days. On the fourth day, if the employee returns, the employer must pay that person for the 3 days and no disciplinary action can be taken.
For employers with less than 18 employees – you must also have a policy describing how employees must notify the employer that an employee is out of work with the intent to take UNPAID sick and safety leave. Again, if no policy exists, the employee can be out for 3 consecutive days, return on the fourth day and no disciplinary action can be taken against the individual.
The link to the new law is: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/PublicLaws/law17/law17347.htm
The link to the Department of Labor and Training Regulations is: http://sos.ri.gov/documents/archives/regdocs/released/pdf/DLT/9466.pdf
An Update from the State House
At 11:57 p.m. on Saturday night the House adjourned, completing its 2018 legislative session. The Senate adjourned shortly thereafter.
It is important to note that bills passed by both the House and Senate are NOT law until signed by the Governor or allowed by the Governor to go into law without her signature. The Chamber will provide a list of new laws in a special edition of Under the Dome in August, after all of the bills have been addressed.
The pay equity bill came to a halt as the Senate and House could not reach a final compromise. The two bills were very different and would have required weeks of negotiations to move forward. A study commission was mentioned as a possible alternative, but it did not come to fruition.
A Pawsox bill did pass the House and the Senate reluctantly passed it in the hopes of keeping the team in Rhode Island. The final product results in a higher cost to the team with less risk placed on the State. It is unclear whether the deal will be accepted by the team.
H.7800 SubA as amended passed the House and Senate on the last day. This bill was amended in the last hours. The original bill would have required employers to provide paper documents (i.e. 1099 forms, checks etc.) unless the employee opted out to allow electronic documents to be utilized. The bill was amended to say that statements and records “may” be furnished as printed or handwritten records, at no cost to the employee. “The employer may furnish to an employee electronic records, in lieu of a printed or handwritten record, when a written authorization from such employee is provided to the employer.” If this bill is allowed to go into law by the Governor, it will be effective upon passage.
The myriad of bills put forth by the Commission to Study Sexual Harassment in the Workplace saw no action on the House floor. The chamber testified against H.8277 (Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro, Donovan) that would have required employers with 50+ employees to provide sexual harassment training to each new employee within 30 days of hiring, training to new managerial employees and a refresher training course every 2 years for all employees. The Chamber also testified against H.8278 (Tanzi, Kazarian, Ruggiero, Walsh, Regunberg) which called for a ban on non-disclosure agreements involving sexual harassment and other civil rights cases. The bill also would have affected the ability to include such agreements as part of legal settlement actions, leading to more full litigation.
Marijuana popped up in the closing day as the House and Senate passed legislation requiring that any use of a premises for marijuana cultivation be disclosed in any real estate transaction. According to the floor debate, “marijuana cultivation” means a property with 28 or more plants under the Rhode Island medical marijuana law. If a property was used for such a purpose, that use would need to be disclosed when the property is for sale. Proponents claim the equipment and conditions under which plants are grown can lead to mold and other issues on a property. Opponents point to the fact that such disclosure technically requires an owner to admit to breaking federal law, and places the sale of the property in jeopardy. The Governor has not made her intentions known, so it is unclear whether the bill will eventually become law.
Internet Privacy was in play most of the last few days of session. H.7111 SubA called for companies with 10+ employees to change their websites, disclosing to whom they sell collected data; and if applicable, who their third party vendors sell data to as well. To avoid the disclosure requirement, companies could sign confidentiality agreements with vendors AND actively monitor the third parties to ensure compliance with the confidentiality agreements. A customer would have the right to know what data was collected on him/her individually and how the data was used. This collection procedure is problematic, because it requires entities to keep information together with the customer’s name – something cyber security experts say makes it easier for hackers to steal identities. The sponsor – Rep. Evan Shanley – agreed to amend his bill into a study commission to work with the business community over the fall to develop a workable solution. We thank him for his willingness to listen to the business community’s concerns.
S.2638 Sub A, requiring an employer of 100 or more employees to report information as to compensation/hours worked by age/gender/race/ethnicity/job category/occupation/title to DLT did not make it to the House floor for a vote.
The Re-naming of T.F. Green Airport seemed as if it was on its way to the Governor’s desk, but was derailed at the very end. The House voted to adopt a changed as requested by the airport commission to the “Rhode Island International Airport.” The Senate voted to lengthen the name to “Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport.” The bills were never reconciled. The jet fuel tax proposed by the airport commission did not survive the night as well. The commission wanted to tax jet fuel at a rate of 7% and then credit the amount collected back to the airlines against their CTE fees paid to the airport. The commission argued that airlines look at the CTE at airports to determine where they might want to establish hubs. By lowering the CTE, the airport may attract more airlines and more flight routes. Opponents were concerned that the commission may keep the jet fuel tax in future years thus increasing the cost of flights.
During the final hours of session, both the Senate and the House said official good-byes to legislators who have decided to forego running in the upcoming elections. The list of those not seeking re-election as an incumbent include: Senator Paul Fogarty from Glocester, Senator Marc Cote from Woonsocket, Senator Dan DaPonte from East Providence, Representative Joy Hearn from Barrington, Representative Robert Nardolillo from Coventry who is running for US Senate, Representative Tom Winfield from Smithfield, Representative Aaron Regunberg from Providence who is running for Lt. Governor, Representative Patricia Morgan from West Warwick who is running for Governor, Representative Jared Nunes from Coventry, Representative Jeremiah O’Grady from Lincoln, and Representative Helder Cunha from East Providence.
If you wish to run for any office this year, you must file a declaration form found at:
and deliver it to your local board of canvassers by Wednesday 4:00 pm.
As you may be aware, the RI Department of Labor sent a letter to businesses stating that the Department would not enforce the Paid Sick and Safety Leave Act (PSSLA) until January 1, 2019. While perhaps well meaning, this letter has only set a trap for Rhode Island businesses. The PSSLA provides employees with the right to seek relief through the assistance of DLT, but it also gives employees a private right of action. DLT has no authority over the court system; and the Court will have no choice but to enforce the law. The only way to delay the effective date of the law is through legislative intervention. The Chamber sent a letter to the leadership of the House and the Senate asking them to remedy this situation.
If the legislature does not act, the PSSLA goes into full effect July 1, 2018. If the legislature delays the PSSLA in its entirety, then businesses will have until January 1, 2019 to change policy manuals, begin the accrual of time off for employees and provide the leave. Lastly, if the legislature chooses to only delay the penalties in the Act until January 1, 2019, then businesses must change their policies, begin accrual, and provide employees with the time off – but if you make a mistake, the penalties provided in the law by the courts and DLT will not be assessed as long as the business corrects the situation before January 1, 2019.
An Update from the State House
The House passed the $9.55 billion budget 66-7 at 9:52 p.m. last Friday night. Had the debate continued much longer, the House was prepared to return to finishing the debate Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, that was not necessary. Most changes to the budget were technical in nature, although the sports betting agreement was reached. The State will get 51% of the revenue, IGT – the operator of the betting will get 32%, and Twin River will get 17%. In addition, the communities of Lincoln and Tiverton will receive and annual payment of $100,000 for hosting the facilities. Some in the media drew attention to the fact that the amended Article passed with no debate on the floor, but most legislators had agreed on the amount that would be raised from the activity prior to the final vote leaving debate unnecessary.
This Week At the State House
We are coming into what should be the last week of the 2018 legislative session. Many issues remain in play: Pay Equity, the Pawsox Stadium, Internet Privacy Disclosures, Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace, Non-Disclosure Agreements in Employer/Employee Settlement Agreements, Anti-bullying Procedures in the Workplace, Health Insurance Surprise Billing, Harassment Reports for Companies with 100+ Employees…the list is substantial.
The House Speaker said he hopes to reach consensus on Pawsox legislation by Tuesday. H.7290 (Reps. Messier, Coughlin, Johnston, Tobon and Barros) is scheduled for a hearing and possible consideration in the House Finance Committee at 3:30pm in Room 35 of the State House.
H.7111 SubA (Reps. Shanley, Carson, Regunberg, Marszalkowski and Edwards) remains very much in play. This bill is referred to by proponents as the Data Transparency bill. The Chamber sent out an action alert last week asking for your help. The Senate version is S.2277 (Sens. Pearson, Euer, Goldin, Satchell, Seveney). Various business groups met with the House sponsor Monday. The fate of the bill is unclear at this time. While the bill is very difficult for telecom companies to administer, it also has ramifications for the general business population as well.
1. If a company has 10 employees or more and is completely self-contained in its internet customer information collection activity, then the company has no new requirements under this bill. “Self-contained” means the company creates its own website, gathers the data itself, shares it with no one – not even a website operator or payment company.
2. If a company has 10+ employees and uses a third-party to create and operate its website or to take orders, fill orders or uses a payment system that interacts with the website information, then the company must execute a confidentiality agreement with the third party and take steps to “effectively enforce” the agreement. If that happens, the company has no new requirements under the law.
3. If a company has 10+ employees and fails to meet the criteria of #2 above, or if the company shares information with a third party for the third party’s use, then the company must change its website by July 1, 2018, to state what categories of information are collected, disclose the third parties that receive the information and how it is used, and provide information on how a consumer can request specific knowledge about the information on file with the company. If a customer requests information, the company has 30 days to provide a list of the information that has been collected over the past 12 months concerning that specific customer. This means that the data collected must be collected in a way where it is tied to the name of the customer – something cyber security experts advise against to deter hackers from obtaining identity theft information.
This bill is not law in any other state in the country. Illinois passed it, but it was vetoed by the Governor of Illinois.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8320
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO SPORTS, RACING, AND ATHLETICS - SPORTS BETTING (Establishes 9 sports betting parlor licenses for on-site/on-line wagering with DBR granted licensing/regulatory power relating to license issuance to applicants/employees/third-party vendors/collection of fees/taxes with local licensing. eff. 11/6/18)
This year’s elections are extremely important to the business community. In many cases, the only contested races will take place in the Primary election September 12, 2018. In order to vote in a party’s primary election, you must either be a member of that party or unaffiliated (independent) and be registered to vote in the district where you live.
If you would like to have more choices on who to vote for in the Primary Election, it is recommended that you register as “unaffiliated” so that you can choose which primary to vote in depending who is running in the Primary. The deadline for disaffiliating is June 14, 2018.
To register to vote, check your affiliation, or to change to “unaffiliated,” go to https://vote.sos.ri.gov/ and have your driver’s license in hand.
Also, as stated previously in UTD, anyone wishing to run for office must file a Declaration of Candidacy Form with the Local Board of Canvassers in the City or Town in which you reside. Forms can be filed June 24th, 25th or 26th. Last week, Senator Daniel DaPonte (East Providence) announced he will not seek re-election.
An Update from the State House
Last Week At the State House
The Senate Committee on Environment and Energy discussed S.2747 (Senators Euer, Coyne, Miller, Sosnowski and Calkin). S.2747 creates the Rhode Island Global Warming Solutions Act, which establishes legally enforceable emission reductions in the state. To accomplish these goals, the bill requires the Office of Energy Resources, the Department of Transportation and the State Building Commission to promulgate rules necessary to achieve the emission reduction goals or face a lawsuit in Superior Court. The bill mandates a 5% requirement for electric vehicles sales by 2025, 40% electric vehicles by 2035, and 95% by 2050. It also mandates that all existing buildings – commercial and residential would have to be heated solely by electricity by 2050. Ten percent of buildings heated by oil or propane would have to be switched to electric heat by 2025. No new building with a shovel in the ground on or after January 1, 2035 could be heated with oil or propane. By 2050, all RI buildings must be converted to electric heat.
The Conservation Law Foundation testified that S.2747 was modeled after a Massachusetts bill and that the economy of MA has not suffered from its passage. However, the MA bill does not include the electric car or the electric heat mandate; and the MA bill does not reach its first emissions reduction requirement until 2020, so no economic activity can be related to the passage of the MA Act – good or bad.
This Week At the State House
The Special Legislative Commission to Study Unlawful Sexual Harassment in the Workplace finished its work last week by filing seven bills aimed at curtailing harassment (two additional bills may be filed later this week).
H.8275 (Reps. Vella-Wilkinson, Giarrusso, Serpa, McEntee and Lombardi) requires DCYF and the department of education to identify or develop a program of age appropriate sexual abuse and sexual awareness education to be used in schools.
H.8276 (Reps. Tanzi, Ruggiero, Diaz, Hearn and Amore) extends the timeframe for an individual to bring an allegation of an unfair employment practice to the RI Commission Against Discrimination. The proposed Statute of Limitations would change from one year to two years after an incident has occurred.
H.8277 (Reps Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro and Donovan) requires employers with 50 employees or more to conduct mandatory anti sexual harassment training within three months of a new employee’s hiring, or within three months of an employee’s promotion to a managerial position. All employees must go through a refresher training course every two years. The Department of Administration is required to provide training materials – free of charge – to any business that requests such information. Any business that receives $50,000 or more in state funds or contracts from the state must provide proof that the required training has been completed. Finally, H.8277 encourages companies to complete an annual “climate” survey including sexual harassment issues and equal opportunity questions.
H.8278 (Reps. Tanzi, Kazarian, Ruggiero, Walsh and Regunberg) forbids an employer to require an employee to execute a nondisclosure agreement or a non-disparagement agreement regarding alleged violations of civil rights or criminal conduct. These agreements go beyond sexual harassment and could include a wide variety of issues. Employers could no longer include such confidentiality agreements in any settlements.
H.8279 (Reps. Tanzi, Ajello, Walsh, Casimiro and Messier) expands the definition of employee under the Fair Employment Practices Act: “includes any individual under the direction and control of an employer under any appointment or contract of hire or apprenticeship, express or implied, oral or written.” It specifically eliminates the exemption for individuals in domestic service – housekeepers, nannies, etc; and includes volunteers and unpaid interns. The Fair Employment Practices Act covers much more than sexual harassment issues. The Act addresses age discrimination and accommodations for disabled employees among other categories.
H.8280 (Reps. McEntee, Tanzi, Craven, Knight and Vella-Wilkinson) suspends the statute of limitations for alleged violations of discrimination, sexual harassment or civil rights brought to the RI Human Rights Commission and resets the clock to one year once the claim is filed.
H.8281 (Reps. Shanley, Tanzi, McEntee, Regunberg and Vella-Wilkinson) creates a reporting requirement for state agencies and departments for violations of the fair employment practices chapter and the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative chapter. Any employer found to have committed an unfair employment practice (refusal to hire based on race, color, gender, sexual orientation, etc. or doesn't accommodate a disability) would be listed in an annual report to the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President. It is likely that report would be considered a public document. The report would also include a list of agencies that have been accused - not found in violation - of failing to meet their affirmative action plan.
The House and Senate, along with the Governor are actively meeting to work out a spending plan for FY2019. While there is a small chance the House Finance Committee will vote out a budget this week, next week seems more likely. Once voted out of Committee, the budget must sit on the House floor for seven days before the full House can vote on the document.
The Senate Finance Committee will hear testimony Thursday at the Rise on S.2196 (Senators Nesselbush, Crowley, Paolino, Jabour and Miller) which proposes a tax on sugary beverages. The tax would be paid by wholesalers; however, if the wholesaler fails to pay the tax, the retailer would become responsible for payment. Tier 1: Beverages with less than five grams (5g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will not be taxed. Tier 2: Beverages with more than five grams (5g) but less than twenty grams (20g) of sugar per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will be taxed at a rate of one cent ($0.01) per ounce. Tier 3: Beverages with twenty grams (20g) of sugar or more per twelve fluid ounces (12 fl. oz.) will be taxed at a rate of two cents ($0.02) per ounce. Syrups and powders which, together with fluids, create a sugary beverage will be taxed as well.
The following bills were filed last week:
House Bill No. 8253
BY Williams, Diaz, Slater, Maldonado, Tobon
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS - MINORITY BUSINESS ENTERPRISE (Provides that any minority business enterprise that is certified under the Federal Small Business Act shall be deemed certified by the department of administration as a minority business enterprise.)
House Bill No. 8254
BY McKiernan, Almeida, Perez, Winfield, Fogarty
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES--STEP THERAPY PROTOCOL (Requires health insurers, nonprofit hospital service corporations, nonprofit medical service corporations and health maintenance organizations that issue policies that provide coverage for prescription drugs and use step therapy protocols.)
House Bill No. 8258
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO TAXATION - BUSINESS CORPORATION AND PERSONAL INCOME TAX (Limit to 7 yrs the period within which bus. corp tax/personal income tax may be assessed for taxpayers failing to file returns on date return was due to be filed/10 yrs within which collection actions can begin from date balance assessed with 4 exceptions)
House Bill No. 8264
BY Shanley, Tanzi, McEntee, Vella-Wilkinson, Giarrusso
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS - FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES (Enhances reporting for state agencies required for violations of the fair employment practices chapter and the equal opportunity and affirmative action chapter.)
Senate Bill No. 2934
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- HEALTH CARE--HEALTH INSURANCE (Establishes the Rhode Island reinsurance program and restricted receipt account, from federal funding, administered by the director of the Rhode Island health benefits exchange, to mitigate the impact of high-risk individuals on health insurance rates.)
Senate Bill No. 2941
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS (Reserves 5% of energy efficiency funds for low-income residents for assistance to residents who seek financial assistance with electric bills but do not meet eligibility guidelines for other financial assistance programs.)
Senate Bill No. 2950
BY Ciccone, Miller, Lombardi, Nesselbush, Fogarty
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- RHODE ISLAND PARENTAL AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (Allows employee granted unpaid family/parental leave to substitute any accrued vacation/sick/ other appropriate leave for any part of the unpaid leave.)
Senate Bill No. 2953
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- HOSPITAL CLOSURE TRANSITION ACT (Creates the "Hospital Closure Transition Act which would facilitate the acquisition of a closed hospital's assets by an existing hospital by exempting the acquisition from the hospital conversions and health care facilities licensing acts.)
Senate Bill No. 2954
BY Conley, Nesselbush, Crowley
ENTITLED, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- HEALTH AND SAFETY--ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT INCENTIVE FOR CERTAIN ELIGIBLE HOSPITALS (Establishes a formula to create a transitional alternative payment method incentive to be used in calculating reimbursement rates that must be paid by health insurance carriers to eligible Rhode Island hospitals.)