Labor and Employment Law in Rhode Island

Both federal and state employment laws are in place to protect employees rights through the employment process. This guide provides the basic laws that protect employees in Rhode Island.

Regulations for Hiring

It is Illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employers may not use these factors in job advertisements, interviews, and application decisions.

Employers must limit interview questions to those relevant to the position available. They are prohibited from asking questions about disability, and questions about race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are inappropriate in determining aptitude.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of 1.5 times the regular rate of pay. Overtime rules cover the majority of employees, but there are occasional exemptions.

States may have their own laws, with additional protections. Rhode Island's minimum wage is $7.75 per hour, effective January 1, 2013.

Safe Workplace Conditions

Employees have the absolute right to a safe work environment. Employers must provide working conditions without known dangers and provide safety training. Workers have the right to request the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to perform inspections for safety, and employers may not retaliate, discriminate, or fire employees for pointing out unsafe conditions.

Workers' Compensation Rules

Worker’s compensation is a disability compensation program that provides payments to workers who are injured at work or who acquire an occupational disease. Dependents receive compensation if an injury to the worker results in death. Types of compensation include wage replacement, medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation.

Federal compensation covers federal workers. Workers in Rhode Island who are injured on the job while employed by private companies or state and local government agencies must refer to Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Board.

Time-Off Rights

In addition to your employer’s voluntary time-off programs, some rights to time off are required by federal and state laws. Family and medical leave gives workers the right to take time off for personal and family needs. The time off under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives workers up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid time off and sometimes longer. After taking FMLA leave, you have the right to be reinstated in the same or equal position.

Most states allow time off to vote, but Rhode Island does not require employers to offer time off to vote.

Harassment Protections

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination. It is illegal under federal law and includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment.

Harassment is any unwelcome conduct related to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information that becomes a condition of continued employment or creates a hostile, intimidating or abusive work environment.

Termination Rights

Almost all states are “employment-at-will” states, including Rhode Island. Private-sector employers and employees have the right to terminate employment at any time and without a reason. Employers may not fire you for illegal reasons such as: retaliation, discrimination, refusal to take a lie detector test, alien status, making an OSHA complaint, refusing to commit an illegal act, complaining about law breaking, or exercising a legal right.

Rhode Island requires employers to give leaving employees their final paychecks on the next scheduled payday. Any vacation pay that has accrued is required to be paid out in your final paycheck.

After-Employment Rights

The Department of Labor's Unemployment Insurance programs offers unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Benefits are equal to a percentage of earnings for a maximum of 26 weeks. Rhode Island’s benefits amount to about 57.7 percent of weekly wages with a maximum of $566 per week.

Federal COBRA law provides eligible former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates for 18 months. This coverage is only available when employment is lost due to voluntary and involuntary termination and not due to gross misconduct. Rhode Island's Mini COBRA provides extended benefits to employees of companies with fewer than 20 employees or those whose companies have closed.

Talk to a Rhode Island Labor and Employment Lawyer

Employment law is not straightforward. Should you have questions about your circumstances at work, talk to a Rhode Island employment lawyer.

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