August 23, 2018
Rhode Island grants grace period for employers for paid sick leave omissions until January 1, 2019
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training announced that while enforcement of the new paid sick and safe leave law began as of July 1, 2018, the Department will grant a six-month grace period for unintentional employer omissions.
Until January 1, 2019, if the Department finds that an employer has mistakenly denied benefits but has acted in good faith to comply with the paid sick and safe leave law, the agency will ensure that impacted employees are appropriately compensated, and waive the administrative penalties, as long as corrective action is taken to prevent further issues.
Accordingly, except for inadvertent omissions through December 31, 2018, employers in violation of the sick and safe leave law may be found liable for a penalty of $100 for the first offense and penalties of $100-$500 per offense for subsequent violations.
Each day of violation constitutes a separate offense. In determining the amount of the penalty, the Department will consider the size of the employer's business; the good faith of the employer; the gravity of the violation; the history of previous violations; and whether or not the violation was an innocent mistake or willful. (Rhode Island Regulations 260-RICR-30-05-5.)
Employers with 18 or more employees must provide paid sick leave to employees
Effective July 1, 2018, Rhode Island employers with 18 or more employees are required to provide paid sick and safe leave to their employees. Employers with fewer than 18 employees must provide, at minimum, unpaid sick and safe leave.
The sick and safe leave law is phased in over three years, starting with 2018. Employers must allow covered employees to take up to 24 hours of leave in 2018, up to 32 hours in 2019, and up to 40 hours of leave thereafter. Employers with private leave plans that at least meet the minimum provisions of the law are exempt from tracking the accrual of such leave, allowing for carryover, or paying employees for unused time.
Employees must earn at least one hour of sick and safe leave for every 35 hours worked. Once the annual cap is reached, accrual stops; however, employers may elect to offer more hours of leave. Earned sick and safe leave time begins to accrue at the start of employment or July 1, 2018, whichever is later.
Most part-time, full-time, seasonal, temporary or other employees who work in Rhode Island more than in any other state must be allowed to accrue sick and safe leave, with the following two exceptions:
— Employees of local municipalities, state and federal governments and other public entities
— Per diem nurses who work at health care facilities, are under no obligation to work a regular schedule, and receive higher pay than others who work a regular schedule while performing the same job
Employers may require new employees to serve a waiting period of 90 days before collecting sick and safe leave. Temporary employees may be required to wait 180 days and seasonal employees, 150 days. However, these employees must begin accruing sick and safe leave hours immediately upon start of employment.
Unless an employer "front-loads" sick and safe leave time at the beginning of each calendar year, employers must allow employees to carry over sick and safe leave time to the following calendar year; however, an employee's use of paid sick and safe leave time in each calendar year can be limited to 24 hours during calendar year 2018, 32 hours during calendar year 2019, and 40 hours per year thereafter.
The Department's Labor Standards Unit is responsible for enforcement of the sick and safe leave regulations. Employers with questions regarding the requirements of the law should call the Unit at +1 401 462 8550, send an email to DLT.LaborStandards@dlt.ri.gov or see the Department's website for more information. See also the Department's sick and safe leave fact sheet.
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