Rhode Island Labor Laws

March 19th 2024

This article covers:

What are Rhode Island Time Management Laws?

In the US, there are federal laws in place to manage the time spent by employees in the workplace, safeguarding their rights and guaranteeing fair pay for their efforts. These laws act as directives for employers, keeping them in check, and minimizing any forms of abuse or exploitation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which dates back to 1938, is a critical federal law for time management, setting hourly wage rates and overtime pay, and requiring employers to keep an accurate record of their employees’ working hours. Overtime is pegged at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. However, certain job categories, including executives, professionals, and administrative employees, are exempt from overtime pay depending on their job description and salary.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another essential federal law that governs time management in the workplace, entitling eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. This act also requires employers to maintain employees’ health benefits during their leave and restore them to their previous or equivalent positions upon their return to work.

Employers who contravene federal time management laws face severe legal ramifications, including fines, back pay, and damages. If workers feel that their employer has violated federal time management laws, they can file complaints with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for investigation and legal action.

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

Rhode Island Minimum Wage $14.00
Rhode Island Overtime Laws 1.5 times the minimum wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week
($21.00 for minimum wage workers)
Rhode Island Break Laws Meal break — 20 min per 6 hours and 30 min per 8 hours of consecutive work

What are the Hiring, Working & Termination Laws in Rhode Island?

It’s important to note that discriminating against any person in the workplace is not only morally wrong, it’s also against federal law. Federal law enforces a list of forbidden bases of discrimination, in addition to these, Rhode Island has implemented its own list of prohibited bases. To be clear, here is the full list of prohibited bases for workplace discrimination, especially when hiring:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetic information (including family medical history)
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Child or spousal withholding
  • Military or veteran status
  • Citizenship and immigration status
  • Arrest record
  • Domestic abuse victim status
  • Outside tobacco use
  • Homelessness

Just like other states in the US, Rhode Island applies the “employment-at-will” doctrine which means that employers have the freedom to terminate their employees’ work arrangements anytime and for any reason. On the other hand, employees are not tied or obligated to stay in their jobs, they can leave on their own accord without legal repercussions. However, there are two conditions that apply when it comes to employers terminating their employees’ contract: it must not be based on discrimination and it should not be retaliation for a legal action such as whistleblowing. In Rhode Island, employers are mandated by law to issue a final paycheck to their terminated employees which includes payment for all wages and benefits. This must be given on the next commonly scheduled payday, except in cases when the employer is liquidating, merging, closing down, or moving the business out of state.

What Are the Key Labor Laws in Rhode Island?

Now, we will discuss some key labor laws in Rhode Island that may not be related to the categories we have previously explored. Some of these regulations include:

  • OSHA Laws – The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires that all employees in the US have a safe and healthy working environment. The goal of OSHA is to reduce and eliminate workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Rhode Island does not have a specific state plan, so the federal OSHA guidelines apply. Employers must ensure proper training, education, and continuous assistance, as well as work towards improving conditions if possible. Compliance officers from the Department of Health are responsible for enforcing federal OSHA standards, including conducting scheduled and unscheduled inspections in response to various reports. State and local government workers are excluded from OSHA regulations.
  • Whistleblower Protection Laws – As an employee, you have the right to speak up about illegal or harmful workplace activities without fear of negative consequences. These protections are known as whistleblower laws, and they prevent employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who report in good faith the wrongdoings they see.  Remember, these laws exist to safeguard your legal rights as an employee.
  • COBRA Laws – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a law that enables employees to maintain their health care insurance and benefits after they have been terminated from work. This law operates at a federal level and applies to employers that have more than 20 employees. Most states also have their own regulations, known as the mini-COBRA, for businesses with less than 20 employees. Rhode Island has its own mini-COBRA law that gives health coverage to employees for up to 18 months after their employment termination date, if their employer has fewer than 20 employees.
  • Background Check Laws – Employers in Rhode Island have the option to conduct background checks under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Yet, it’s important for all employers to understand and follow the regulations set forth by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when conducting such checks. It’s worth noting that certain positions require mandatory background checks such as school personnel, healthcare personnel, and personnel in assisted living facilities. 
  • Credit and Investigative Check Laws – Employers in Rhode Island can carry out credit and investigative checks for employment purposes, but they have to inform the job applicants beforehand. If the reason for rejecting a potential hire is information in the credit report, the employers are required to state it clearly and provide details of the reporting agency’s name and address. The Fair Credit Reporting Act prescribes the procedures that employers must follow when conducting checks.
  • Arrest and Conviction Check Laws – Rhode Island is among the states that have implemented the “Ban the Box” law, which prohibits employers from asking applicants about their criminal records during the initial application. However, they are allowed to make such inquiries during interviews. Employers can only ask about convictions and not arrests. An applicant can deny having a criminal history if their records have been expunged.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing Laws – Rhode Island employers are permitted to test job applicants and current employees for drug and alcohol use as long as they follow state regulations. These regulations differ depending on whether the person being tested is an applicant or an employee. For applicants, the employer must inform them if passing the test is required for employment, and the test can only be conducted after an offer has been made. Complete privacy must be ensured when providing a sample, and a positive test must be confirmed by a certified laboratory using advanced technology. As for employees, the employer must have reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence, and complete privacy must also be maintained during the testing process. If an employee fails the test, they cannot be fired, but they must be referred to a licensed substance abuse professional. The test must be conducted in a certified laboratory using advanced technology, and the employer must pay for the testing. Employees must also be given the option to have the sample tested at an independent facility, and they must have a chance to explain the results. Finally, the results must be kept confidential.
  • Social Media Laws – Rhode Island law states that employers are not allowed to request employees or job applicants to provide access to their personal social media accounts. Additionally, employers cannot require employees to add specific business contacts, advertise for the business on their personal accounts, or provide their login information or other identifying credentials.
  • Employee Monitoring Laws – In Rhode Island, employers are not allowed to use electronic surveillance devices to monitor their employees’ activities in areas like bathrooms, lounges, and locker rooms. They are also prohibited from listening to wire communications. Furthermore, the state regulates the use of GPS tracking devices in motor vehicles, requiring written consent from all parties involved.
  • Cafeteria Insurance – If you’re an employer with a minimum of 25 employees, it’s a legal obligation to offer them a health insurance plan in a “cafeteria style”. The term comes from the employees’ ability to choose different benefits, akin to a customer selecting a mix of items in a cafeteria. This type of insurance allows employees to pay their group health insurance premiums along with extra insurance premiums using tax-free funds, significantly reducing payroll taxes.
  • Recordkeeping Laws – As an employer in Rhode Island, it’s mandatory to keep records of all your employees for three years. Check out the comprehensive list below to ensure you’re meeting all necessary requirements:
    • Employee name
    • Social security number
    • Occupation of the employee
    • Date of birth
    • Address including ZIP code
    • Regular hourly rate of pay
    • Basis on which wages are paid
    • A daily record of beginning and ending work, if a split shift is in question
    • Total daily or weekly net wages and deductions
    • Total gross daily or weekly wages
    • Date of each payment
    • Records of leaves, notice, and policies under the Family and Medical Leave Act
    • Records of all job-related injuries and illnesses under OSHA – for 5 years
    • Summary descriptions and annual reports of benefit plans – for 6 years
    • Specifically dangerous instances under OSHA (e.g. toxic substance exposure) – for 30 years

Rhode Island Payment Laws

To start off, let’s take a look at the laws that govern how much employees must be paid. We’ll delve into the details of minimum wage standards, including any exceptions that may apply.

What is the Minimum Payment in Rhode Island?

The term “minimum wage” refers to the lowest hourly rate that employees can receive as compensation for their work. While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates wages on a federal level, each state has the right to set a higher minimum wage. In the case of Rhode Island, the minimum wage is currently $14.00 and is set to increase in stages over the next few years, reaching $15 per hour by January 2025. However, there are some exemptions and exceptions to this requirement, such as for seasonal employees. When it comes to fair compensation for Rhode Island workers, it’s important to be aware of these changes and any other relevant regulations.

Tips are a common form of gratuity provided by customers to employees, particularly in the hospitality industry. Employees in Rhode Island who regularly receive tips must earn at least $30 per month in gratuities. However, the minimum tipped wage in Rhode Island is $3.89 and it’s lower than the regular minimum wage. Should an employee’s tips combined with the base wage not amount to $14.00 per hour, employers are required to make up the difference. Tip pooling is a practice that allows tipped employees to share a portion of their tips with those who do not normally receive gratuities, such as cooks or dishwashers. Employers cannot take any part of tips for themselves, nor can they take tip credits to count as part of an employee’s hourly pay. Overall, Rhode Island regulations provide guidelines for fair and just treatment of tipped employees and ensure that employers are held accountable for providing appropriate compensation.

In Rhode Island, certain categories of workers, including minors under 16, are subject to a subminimum wage, which allows employers to pay them less than the standard minimum wage. However, only full-time students under 19 working in specific organizations and minors under 16 working up to 24 hours per week are eligible for this lower wage. Employers are required to pay these workers at least 75% and 90% of the minimum wage, respectively. Everyone else is entitled to at least the standard minimum wage of $14.00 per hour. This differs from other states, where apprentices and trainees may also be paid a subminimum wage.

What are the Exceptions for Minimum Payment in Rhode Island?

There are certain employment and personal statuses in Rhode Island that are not subject to minimum wage laws. Here are some cases in which minimum wage laws don’t apply, so you can find out who the exemptions cover:

  • White-collar employees (i.e. bona fide executives, administrative workers, and professionals)
  • Outside salespeople
  • Taxi cab operators
  • Individuals employed in domestic service or in or about private homes
  • Individuals employed by the US government or state services
  • Newspaper deliverers
  • Individuals voluntarily engaged in the activities of educational, charitable, religious, and nonprofit organizations
  • Shoe shiners
  • Caddies on golf courses
  • Pin persons in bowling alleys
  • Ushers in theaters
  • Traveling salespeople
  • Workers under 21 who are employed by their parents
  • Resort establishment workers, between May 1 and October 1 – provided the institution isn’t open for business more than 6 months in a year
  • Organized camp workers – provided the camp isn’t open for business more than 7 months in a year

What is the Payment Due Date in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island labor laws require employers to provide employees with regular compensation on a weekly or semi-monthly basis. Payroll periods cannot exceed two weeks. Employers can pay their employees in different ways, including cash, checks, direct deposit, or payroll cards, as long as the employee has provided written consent. Deductions from wages are only allowed if legally required or if the employee agrees in writing. Employers must include both the amount and purpose of deductions in each paycheck. If the schedule of paydays needs to be changed, the employer must post a notice or notify employees at least 3 paydays in advance.

What are Rhode Island Overtime Laws?

 The Fair Labor Standards Act has established regulations which define a working week as any seven consecutive working days. Employees who work up to 40 hours during this period must be compensated for their work at least at an hourly rate of a minimum wage as defined by the Rhode Island constitution. Overtime is any number of hours exceeding 40 and must be compensated at a higher hourly rate. Non-exempt employees who exceed that number are entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate, which currently translates to $21.00 for minimum wage workers. However, some occupations and conditions can overrule this requirement. To learn more about who is eligible for overtime compensation in Rhode Island, read on.

What are the Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Rhode Island?

Federal regulations exempt certain employees from overtime. Generally, under these laws, four key types of employees do not receive overtime. These are known as white-collar workers and include Administratives, Executives, Professionals, and Outside Salespeople. Such employees may be employed in a variety of occupations under each category and must earn a minimum of $684 per week.

Additionally, Rhode Island regulates that there are other categories of workers that fall under the exception and exemption of overtime payment, and, in this case, the list overlaps with the minimum wage list, as follows:

  • Individuals employed in domestic service or in or about private homes
  • Individuals employed by the US government or state services
  • Newspaper deliverers
  • Individuals voluntarily engaged in the activities of educational, charitable, religious, and nonprofit organizations
  • Shoe shiners
  • Caddies on golf courses
  • Pin persons in bowling alleys
  • Ushers in theaters
  • Traveling salespeople
  • Workers under 21 who are employed by their parents
  • Resort establishment workers, between May 1 and October 1 — provided the institution isn’t open for business more than 6 months in a year
  • Organized camp workers — provided the camp isn’t open for business more than 7 months in a year
  • Summer camp workers — provided the camp isn’t open for business more than 6 months in a year
  • Police officers
  • Employees elected through collective bargaining agreements and memorandums of understanding
  • Salaried employees of nonprofit voluntary health agencies
  • Any and all transportation service workers qualified for the Motor Carrier Act standards

Learn more in detail about Rhode Island Overtime Laws.

What are Rhode Island Time Off/Break Laws?

 In Rhode Island, employers are obligated by law to give their employees who work six hours or more paid meal breaks. The duration of the breaks varies according to the length of the shift, with a 20-minute break given for every six hours worked and a 30-minute break given for every eight hours worked. Employers may also decide to offer compensated rest breaks of 10 minutes.

What are Rhode Island Breastfeeding Laws?

If you’re a working mom who recently gave birth and are still breastfeeding, you’re allowed to take a break for this purpose. Your employer may offer either paid or unpaid leave, depending on the company’s policies. This is a requirement on both the state and federal level in Rhode Island. The law specifies that your employer must provide a suitable location for you to lactate or breastfeed that is not a bathroom stall. Moreover, this location must be as close as possible to your work environment.

What are Rhode Island Leave Laws?

 Rhode Island provides two types of leaves – required and non-required leaves.

What is Rhode Island Required Leave?

 The following are the required leave types that Rhode Island employers must provide to their employees:

  • Sick Leave – In Rhode Island, employers who have 18 or more employees are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to their employees. Additionally, they have the option to give their employees 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked.
  • Family and Medical Leave – If you work in Rhode Island, your employer is required to provide you with a certain type of leave. This leave is regulated by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected time off for various reasons related to illness, childbirth, and family care. In Rhode Island, this care-related leave also extends to mother-in-laws and father-in-laws. However, this leave is only available to employees who have worked for the employer for at least one year and have completed at least 1,250 work hours and applies to employers with more than 50 employees. Congress has also added amendments to the FMLA in an effort to support the families of Armed Services members. Employers are now required to allow up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave if an employee needs to care for a service member with a serious health condition, or injury, or undergoing medical treatment or therapy. This applies only if the service member is the employee’s spouse, parent, child, or next of kin.
  • Holiday Leave – If you work on Sundays or legal holidays in Rhode Island, you are entitled to 1.5 times your regular hourly rate. However, you have the right to turn down work on those days without any negative consequences. The list of legal holidays in US can be seen in the table below the Non-Required Leave.
  • Jury Duty Leave – In Rhode Island, if an employee receives a jury duty summons, their employer is obligated to permit them to be away from work during that time. Employers can’t demand their employees to utilize paid leave, like sick or vacation days, to comply with the summons. Furthermore, under the law, employers are forbidden from punishing or reprimanding their employees for accepting jury duty, but they aren’t required to pay them for this absence.
  • Witness Leave – If an employee is summoned to be a witness in court, the law mandates their employer to grant them leave. However, it is not mandatory for the employer to offer any form of compensation for the duration of their absence.
  • School Leave – Rhode Island has a mandatory leave policy for employees who are parents or guardians to attend school-related activities for their children. This leave is limited to 10 hours in a 12-month period and requires employees to submit a request at least 24 hours in advance for approval. Employers can decide whether this leave time will be paid or unpaid.
  • Crime Victim Leave – If an employee becomes a victim of a crime, employers with 50 or more employees must offer them paid or unpaid leave to participate in any proceedings related to the crime. However, in Rhode Island, employers can request that their employees use their sick or vacation time for this leave.
  • Military Leave – In the US, a federal law called the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act guarantees a specific type of leave for employees who serve the country. This includes those in the US Armed Forces, National Guard, or state militia. Once the employee returns to work, they must receive the same salary increases and benefits as if they never left.
  • Military Family Leave – If an employee’s spouse or child is called to military service for at least 30 days, they may be eligible for military family leave. This type of leave is unpaid and is only available to companies with at least 15 employees. The length of the leave varies depending on the number of workers employed by the company. Companies with 15 to 50 employees can offer up to 15 days of leave, while those with more than 50 employees can offer up to 30 days.

What is Rhode Island Non-Required Leave?

 The non-required leave types are:

  • Vacation Leave – Rhode Island employers aren’t obliged to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. However, if they do establish a vacation policy, they must adhere to all the regulations in place.
  • Voting Leave – Rhode Island does not mandate that employers provide voting leave to their workers. However, companies that do offer this benefit are required to clearly outline the specifics of the policy in the employment contract.
  • Bereavement Leave – In Rhode Island, employers are not obligated to provide employees with bereavement leave. However, if a company does offer this type of leave, they must include the specific details of the policy in the employment agreement.

The following are the official federal holidays observed in the US:

State Official Holidays Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day Third Monday in January
Washington’s Birthday Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Election Day Every other year
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day 25 December

What are Rhode Island Child Labor Laws?

 The term “minors” refers to individuals under 18, and both federal and Rhode Island child labor laws aim to protect them from exploitation. These laws recognize the importance of education and seek to ensure that minors’ work experiences enhance their academic and personal growth. The restrictions on minors’ employment include limits on the number of work hours, prohibitions on night work, and specific occupation restrictions. All minors, regardless of age, are prohibited from working in hazardous positions under federal law. Rhode Island Child Labor Laws also provide additional regulations related to minors’ employment.

What are the Laws on Working Hours for Minors in Rhode Island?

 These are the regulations regarding the working hours for Minors in Rhode Island:

Age Group Child Labor Laws
Under 16 – Maximum work hours (school not in session): 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week
  – Maximum work hours (school in session): 3 hours per day, 18 hours per week
  – Nightwork restrictions (school in session): Prohibited between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  – Nightwork restrictions (school not in session): Prohibited between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  – Minimum gap between shifts: At least 8 hours
16-17 – Maximum work hours (school in session): 9 hours per day, 48 hours per week
  – Nightwork restrictions (school day follows): Prohibited between 11:30 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  – Nightwork restrictions (no school day follows): Prohibited between 1:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.
  – No nightwork restrictions during school vacations or non-attendance

What are the Banned Jobs for Minors in Rhode Island?

 To keep minors safe, the government has regulations in place that not only limit the amount of hours in a workday but also prohibit certain jobs altogether. These hazardous occupations include a range of work that is considered too dangerous for young workers, and compliance with these restrictions is mandatory. The full list of hazardous jobs include:

  • Electrical technicians
  • Boiler or engine room operators
  • Occupations related to flammable, toxic, or corrosive substances
  • Elevator-related occupations
  • Centrifugal machine operators
  • Any and all occupations involving climbing
  • Any and all occupations involving power-driven machinery
  • Any and all occupations involving glazing and glass cutting
  • Production and storage of explosives
  • Coal mining
  • Logins and saw milling
  • Work with power-driven woodworking machines
  • Any exposure to radioactive substances
  • Work with power-driven hoisting apparatus
  • Work with power-driven metal-forming, punching, and shearing machines
  • Work related to slaughtering, meat packing, processing, and rending
  • Work with power-driven meat slicers
  • Work with power-driven bakery machines
  • Manufacturing brick, tile, and similar products
  • Work with power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking demolition and any ship breaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavation operations
  • Any work in a tunnel
  • Occupations in billiard or poolrooms
  • Providing public messenger services
  • Dispensing gasoline or other fuel

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.