Extended Questions and Answers regarding the
Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act
1. When does the Act take effect?
The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act takes effect on July 1, 2018. Eligible employees will begin to accrue time immediately.
2. What can earned sick and safe leave time be used for?
Workers may use earned sick time for the following:
- To care for their own mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; medical diagnosis, treatment and preventive medical care;
- To care for a family member with mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care of a family member who needs preventive medical care;
- Closure of worker's place of business by order of a public official due to public health emergency or worker's need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency, or care for oneself or a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the employee's or family member's presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because of their exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the employee or family member has actually contracted the communicable disease; or
- Time off needed when worker or member of worker's family is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
3. Who is considered a "Covered Employee" under this Act?
"Employee" means any person permitted to work by an employer, except for those not considered employees as defined in RI General Law §28-12-2, including independent contractors, subcontractors, work study participants as described pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2753.23, apprenticeships and interns as defined under FLSA section 3(g).
An employee is considered to be employed in Rhode Island if, in the last 12 months, they spent more time working in Rhode Island than any other location, regardless of the location of their employer.
4. What constitutes an "Employer" under this Act?
"Employer" means any individual or entity that including any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer, in relation to an employee as defined in RI General Law §28-12-2, but does not include the federal government.
5. Is the sick and safe leave time paid or unpaid?
Employers with 18 or more employees in the highest two quarters of the previous year must provide paid sick and safe leave. Employers with 17 or fewer employees must provide earned sick and safe leave, but it does not need to be paid.
6. I am an employer - how do I know if I am a covered employer who needs to provide paid sick and safe leave time?
Employers must provide paid sick and safe leave time to all employees if the employer maintained an average of 18 or more employees in Rhode Island during the previous payroll year’s highest two employment quarters.
For the purpose of this determination, employers shall count all unique positions and that total shall represent the number of employees that they employed during that time period.
This calculation shall be performed on an annual basis using that year’s employment data. Employers must establish annually whether they employ 18 or more employees and are required to provide paid leave. This determination remains in effect, regardless of the size of the employer, for the following 12 months.
New employers must provide paid sick and safe leave to all employees once they have a total of 18 or more employees on their payroll.
7. Who is covered as a family member?
An employee may take sick and safe leave time to tend to a child, parent, spouse, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner, sibling, care recipient, or member of the employee's household.
“Member of the employee’s household” means a person that resides at the same physical address as the employee or a person that is claimed as a dependent by the employee for federal income tax purposes.
8. Who is exempt from this Act?
There are several exemptions:
- Employers that have a paid time off policy which provides at least 24 hours of leave in 2018, 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours thereafter, and offer at least the minimum protections in the law.
- Public employees
- Employees licensed to practice nursing if the employee:
- Is employed by a health care facility
- Is under no obligation to work a regular schedule
- Works only when he or she indicates that he or she is available to work and has no obligation to work when he or she does not indicate availability; and
- Receives higher pay than that paid to an employee of the same health care facility performing the same job on a regular schedule.
9. How much sick and safe leave can I earn?
Covered employees shall accrue a minimum of one hour of sick and safe leave time for every 35 hours worked up to 24 hours during the calendar year 2018, 32 hours in 2019 and 40 hours per year thereafter, unless the employer chooses to provide a higher annual limit in both accrual and use. In determining the number of employees who are employed by an employer for compensation, all employees defined in RI General Law § 28-57-3(7) shall be counted.
Paid sick leave and safe leave time is compensated at the same hourly rate with the same benefits, including health care benefits, as the employee normally earns during hours worked and is provided by an employer to a worker for the purposes described in § 28-57-6. For part-time employees, the accrual is pro-rated.
10. When will employees begin to accrue sick and safe leave time?
Paid sick and safe leave time shall begin to accrue at the beginning of employment or by the law's effective date, July 1, 2018, whichever is later.
11. Do workers have to give notice before using sick and safe leave?
If the reason for leave is planned at least 24 hours in advance, the employee must provide notice to the employer. In instances of unforeseeable leave, such as emergencies, notice must be provided as soon as it is reasonable and in accordance with the employer's policies.
12. Can my employer punish me for using sick and safe leave?
Employers may not take adverse action against any employee for making use of the rights and protections provided in the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act.
13. Can the employer ask for proof?
Employers can ask for documentation only in limited circumstances. For example, they can ask for a doctor’s note when the employee misses more than 3 consecutive workdays.
Employers are not allowed to ask for information about the illness or the details of the domestic violence, abuse or stalking.
Food employees and managers can be asked to provide documentation if the absence would trigger the employer’s obligations under the RI Food Code 216-RICR-50-10-1.
The cost to obtain the documentation cannot be more than two times the employee's hourly wage rate.
If an employee is exhibiting a clear pattern of taking leave on days just before or after a weekend, vacation or holiday, an employer may discipline the employee for misuse of sick and safe leave, unless the employee provides reasonable documentation.
14. What if the employer offers other paid time off?
Employers may have their own sick leave policy or other paid time off policy that employees use as sick leave, as long as the policy provides the same benefits and protections that the law requires, or better. The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act is not designed to add additional days to an existing leave policy that already meets the requirements.
15. How must employers notify workers?
Employers must post the Notice to All Employees - Information Employers Must Post poster in the workplace, which includes information on the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplace Act. This poster is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Employers should include their sick time policy in any employee handbook or manual.
Employers may also post or distribute the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Fact Sheet.
16. How will this new law be enforced?
The RI DLT Labor Standards unit is responsible for enforcing the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act when it takes effect July 1, 2018. An employee may submit a complaint of noncompliance to the Labor Standards Unit immediately. An employer who violates this law shall be liable for a civil penalty of $100 for the first violation, and $100 to $500 for subsequent offenses. Each day of violation shall constitute a separate offense; the DLT Director shall consider the size of the employer's business and the gravity of the violation. Until January 1, 2019, if DLT finds that an employer is acting in good faith, fines will be waived but the employee will receive due compensation.
18. How can I file a complaint?
Fill out a complaint form and mail it to RI DLT, Labor Standards Unit, Building 70-2, P.O. Box 20390, Cranston, RI 02920-0944.
Resources and Contact Info
- Read the Press Release
- RI General Law § 28-57
- Healthy and Safe Fact Sheet
- Hoja informativa de la ley Healthy and Safe
- Do I Qualify?
- Employer Required Posters
- Non-Payment of Wages Complaint Form
For more information, contact
Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM