Paid Sick Leave in Rhode Island

Beginning on July 1, 2018, Rhode Island employers of a certain size must provide paid sick leave to their employees. This makes Rhode Island the eighth state with a paid sick leave law. Below, we explain the rules for sick leave eligibility, accrual, use, and more.

Which Employers Must Provide Paid Sick Leave in Rhode Island?

Under the Rhode Island Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, employers with 18 or more employees must provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 18 employees are not required to provide paid sick leave. However, they may not take adverse action against an employee for taking up to 24 hours of unpaid sick leave in 2018, 32 hours in 2019, and 40 hours in 2020 and beyond.

Which Employees Are Eligible for Paid Sick Leave in Rhode Island?

All employees who work for a covered employer are eligible for paid sick leave, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees. On July 1, 2018, all employees will begin to accrue paid sick leave. However, for new hires, employers can institute a 90-day waiting period during which employees may not use the accrued the leave. This waiting period can be extended to 150 days for seasonal employees and 180 days for temporary employees.

How Does Paid Sick Leave Accrue in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island employees will accrue one hour of sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to 24 hours in 2018. This maximum will increase to 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours in 2020 and beyond. Sick leave must carry over from year to year, although employees may only use up to the maximum amounts each year. Alternatively, to avoid dealing with accrual and carry over rules, employers may provide the maximum amount of sick leave at the start of each year.

For What Purposes May Sick Leave Be Used in Rhode Island?

Employees may use sick leave for a variety of reasons, including:

  • the employee’s own physical or mental illness or health condition (including preventative care, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery)
  • to help a family member with a physical or mental illness or health condition (including preventative care, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery)
  • when the employee or a family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking
  • in the event of a closure of the employee’s place of business, or a child’s school or day care, due to a public health emergency declared by a public official, or
  • when the presence of the employee or a family member might jeopardize the health of others due to exposure to a communicable disease.

Who Qualifies as a Family Member?

The Rhode Island paid sick leave law defines “family member” broadly and includes:

  • a spouse or domestic partner
  • a child, including an adopted child, foster child, stepchild, child of a domestic partner, and legal ward
  • a parent, including an adoptive parent, foster parent, stepparent, legal guardian, parent-in-law, and parent of a domestic partner
  • a grandparent
  • a grandchild
  • a sibling
  • any other member of the employee’s household, and
  • any person for whom the employee is responsible for providing health or safety related care.

How Much Notice Must an Employee Give?

An employee must provide advance notice to the employer when the need for leave is foreseeable. The employee must also make reasonable efforts to schedule the leave in a way that won’t unduly disrupt the employer’s business operations. For leave that is not foreseeable, the employer may require the employee to follow a written policy for giving notice, as long as the employee was given a copy of the policy beforehand.

Can an Employer Require Documentation?

An employer may ask an employee to provide reasonable documentation of the need for leave, but only if the employee has taken more than three consecutive days of sick leave. The employer must also have notified the employee of this policy in writing beforehand. The documentation does not need to specify the nature of the illness or the circumstances of the domestic violence.

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