In addition to the leave provided by your employer’s discretionary policies on vacation time, sick leave, personal days, or paid time off (PTO), you may have a legal right to take time off work for specific reasons under federal and Rhode Island laws. For example, if you are caring for an ailing family member or recovering from childbirth, you may have a right to leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Rhode Island law gives you additional leave rights, including the right to paid sick leave, military family leave, and time off for a child’s school activities. Rhode Island also has a state insurance fund that pays employees a portion of their usual wages while they are unable to work because of temporary disabilities or because of the need to care for ill family members.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires all employers in the U.S. with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for a seriously ill family member (spouse, parent, or child), recuperate from their own serious health conditions, bond with a new child, or handle certain practical matters arising from a family member’s military service. Employees may take up to 26 weeks off to care for a family member who suffered a serious illness or injury while serving in the military. (To learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, see our Taking Family and Medical Leave page.)
Some states, including Rhode Island, have passed similar laws providing employees with leave for family or medical reasons. Rhode Island provides the following:
Rhode Island has two insurance programs that provide wage replacement benefits to employees who are unable to work. These benefits are available when an employee is temporary disabled or when the employee needs time off to bond with a child or care for a sick family member. These benefits are paid by the state.
Rhode Island has a state temporary disability insurance program, funded by withholdings from employee paychecks. Eligible employees who are unable to work due to a temporary disability (including pregnancy) can receive a benefit of $74 to $770 per week, for up to 30 weeks. Employees can receive partial benefits while working part time due to a temporary disability. You can find more information at the Temporary Disability Insurance page of Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training.
Starting in 2014, Rhode Island expanded its temporary disability insurance program to include a small amount of paid family leave. Employees may receive up to four weeks of partial wage replacement benefits when taking time off to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, parent-in-law, or domestic partner.
The federal Unformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) gives eligible employees the right to be reinstated to their jobs after taking up to five years off for service in the U.S. military. (Find out all about USERRA in Taking Military Leave.) Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their military service. Employers also may not fire these employees for up to one year after they return from service, except for good cause, even if they would otherwise work at will. (See Employment At Will: What Does It Mean? to learn more.)
Rhode Island has a state law that grants employees who are called to state active duty in the National Guard or the state’s military forces the same rights that are available under USERRA. Employees who are members of the National Guard are also entitled to unpaid leave for training.
Employers may not discriminate against or discharge employees because of their membership in the state or federal military. Employers also may not interfere with an employee’s military service or threaten an employee’s job to dissuade the employee from enlisting.
Rhode Island law also gives employees the right to take time off work, without fear of retaliation, for the civic responsibility of serving on a jury. Employers must allow employees to take time off to serve on a jury. The employer may not deny the employee wage increases, promotions, or other benefits for serving on a jury or attending jury duty.
Time off to serve on a jury is unpaid. However, special rules apply to exempt employees. Under federal law, employers typically cannot deduct an exempt, salaried employee’s pay for time spent serving on a jury, unless the employee did no work for the entire week. For more information, see our article on pay docking.