Compliance Watch:
What are my overtime rights in Rhode Island?

June 20th 2024

Overtime laws exist to protect employees from exploitation and ensure fair compensation for their work. Understanding your overtime rights is therefore essential to avoid being taken advantage of. This guide provides a thorough overview of Rhode Island’s overtime laws, addressing key aspects, including mandatory overtime requirements, eligibility for overtime pay, exemptions, and how overtime compensation is calculated. It also covers frequently asked questions, legal issues related to overtime, penalties for failing to pay overtime, and steps to take if an employer does not comply.

This Article Covers

Understanding Overtime in Rhode Island
Common Questions About Overtime in Rhode Island 
Legal Working Hours in Rhode Island
Overtime Eligibility in Rhode Island 
Overtime Payment Calculations in Rhode Island
Receiving Overtime Payment in Rhode Island
Violations of Overtime Law in Rhode Island

Understanding Overtime in Rhode Island

Is overtime pay mandatory in Rhode Island?

Yes, in Rhode Island, employees are entitled to receive payment for overtime work at one-and-a-half times their regular rate. Any hours worked beyond 40 in a week is considered overtime, as well as work performed on Sundays or holidays, as long as the employee is not exempt from overtime laws. Employees who are not covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the state’s overtime law, do not receive this increased rate no matter how many hours they work.

When do I qualify for overtime pay in Rhode Island?

Employees in Rhode Island are generally entitled to overtime pay when they work for over 40 hours in a week, or on Sundays or holidays. Overtime hours must be compensated at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate, unless the employee is classed as exempt. Daily overtime is not recognized in the state, meaning an employee could work as many as 12 hours a day and not receive overtime pay. However, overtime must be calculated on a weekly basis, and not averaged out across 2 weeks (even if an employee is being paid bi-weekly). 

How much is overtime pay in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of one-and-a-half times their regular pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, according to the FLSA. In addition to this, state law mandates overtime pay for holidays and Sunday work.  With the state minimum wage being $14.00 per hour, the overtime rate is  $21.00 an hour for minimum wage workers.

Which laws govern overtime in Rhode Island?

Overtime in Rhode Island is governed by state regulations alongside the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to the state’s Minimum Wage Act, non-exempt employees must be paid time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, as well as for work performed on Sundays or holidays.  For firefighters, the law specifies a 42-hour weekly threshold before overtime applies, calculated over an 8-week average.

Under the FLSA, the following rules also apply:

  • There is no limit to the maximum number of hours an employee can be required to work.
  • A workweek consists of a period of 168 hours, or seven consecutive 24-hour periods, and can begin on any day. The workweek does not need to coincide with the traditional calendar week, giving employers the flexibility to set varying work weeks for their employees.

Further details on Rhode Island overtime laws can be found in our comprehensive guide.

Common Questions About Overtime in Rhode Island

Do employers have to pay overtime in Rhode Island?

Yes, most employers are required to pay overtime in Rhode Island. Employers must comply with FLSA overtime requirements if they are involved in commerce, handle goods for commerce, or operate businesses that gross more than $500,000 annually. This includes hospitals, care institutions, educational institutions, and public agencies. The definition of ‘interstate commerce’ within the FLSA is broad, covering activities like interstate communications or the interstate movement of goods. This extensive definition means that few businesses are actually exempt from federal overtime regulations.

Can an employee refuse to work overtime in Rhode Island?

No, in most cases, whether an employee works overtime is decided by their employer. Mandatory overtime, or “forced overtime,” is legal in Rhode Island,  requiring many employees to work beyond the standard 40-hour workweek, as long as they receive overtime pay. Employers have the authority to enforce mandatory overtime and may discipline employees who refuse to work overtime, with possible consequences including demotion or termination. There are no federal limits on the total hours that employees aged 16 and older can work per week, provided that the conditions do not endanger their safety or violate any union agreements or employment contracts. 

Only nurses are exempt from these rules. They have the right to refuse mandatory overtime without facing disciplinary actions, except in emergencies. Nurses in Rhode Island cannot be required to work shifts longer than 12 hours, even in times of chronic understaffing, but may volunteer to do so.

Can I take comp time instead of overtime pay in Rhode Island?

Yes, state or local government employees in Rhode Island have the option to receive compensatory time off (“comp time”) in lieu of overtime pay, if agreed upon with their employer. Comp time is calculated at a rate of one-and-a-half times the hours worked beyond 40 in a week. Upon leaving their job, employees must be compensated for any unused comp time. The payment for this unused time is based on either the average of their regular pay rate over the last three years or their final regular pay rate, whichever is higher. 

Can I get overtime pay in Rhode Island without employer approval?

In Rhode Island, employees are entitled to overtime pay even without prior approval from their employer. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), any work that is “not requested but suffered or permitted” qualifies as compensable. This means employees must be paid for overtime as long as the employer is aware of the work being done. However, working extra hours without prior approval could lead to disciplinary actions under company policies. It’s important for employees to follow established work schedules, but if unauthorized overtime is worked, they are still legally entitled to receive overtime compensation.

Does Rhode Island have double-time pay?

No, Rhode Island does not mandate double-time pay. State and federal laws do not require employers to offer double-time compensation for any particular hours or days worked. While employers may choose to provide double-time as part of their company policies, the legal obligation in Rhode Island is to pay employees at a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate for overtime hours worked.

What is working ‘off-the-clock’ in Rhode Island?

Off-the-clock work occurs when an employee carries out job responsibilities without compensation.This work is not included in the calculation of weekly hours, often to avoid paying overtime during periods that would typically qualify. 

In Rhode Island, it’s illegal for employers to ask employees to perform off-the-clock work. Employees have the fundamental right to be compensated for all hours worked. Examples of off-the-clock work include:

  • Working during meal or rest breaks.
  • Preparing for a shift’s start.
  • Cleaning or shutting down a job site after a shift.
  • Correcting errors or redoing tasks.

What are common ways employers avoid paying overtime in Rhode Island?

Employees in Rhode Island must be aware of the tactics some employers use to avoid paying overtime. Common strategies include:

  1. Off-the-Clock Work: Employers may illegally require employees to complete prep work, respond to calls, or perform closing duties outside of paid hours.
  2. Averaging Hours: Some employers manipulate work schedules to average hours over a pay period to avoid paying overtime. For instance, they might compensate a 52-hour work week with a subsequent 28-hour week to falsely reflect two standard 40-hour weeks, thus dodging overtime payments.
  3. Compensatory Time (Comp Time): To prevent accruing overtime, employers might offer time off. For example, giving a day off later in the week to offset a double shift worked earlier, keeping the total hours within the regular 40-hour workweek limit.
  4. Misclassification of Workers: Employers might wrongly classify employees as independent contractors to evade overtime obligations. Proper classification under Rhode Island law is crucial, as true independent contractors only receive the agreed contractual pay, exempt from overtime.

Can you work seven days in a row in Rhode Island?

Yes, it is legal to work seven days in a row in Rhode Island. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs employment and labor standards, does not restrict the number of consecutive days or total weekly hours that employees aged 16 or older can work. Instead, overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Additionally, under state law, work performed on Sundays and holidays must also be compensated at ‘time-and-a-half’. 

How many 10-hour days can you work in a row in Rhode Island?

Some states have specific overtime rules for employees on alternative schedules, such as working four 10-hour shifts per week. Under these rules, overtime is paid for working more than 10 hours a day or 40 hours a week, unless the employee is exempt. However, this rule is not enforced in Rhode Island, allowing adults to work an unlimited number of 10-hour days in a row. 

Specific working hour restrictions apply to minors. For 16-17-year-olds, work is permitted from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., or up to 1:30 a.m. if there are no classes the next day, with a maximum of 9 hours per day and 48 hours per week. 14-15-year-olds are prohibited from working any more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week. 

What are full-time hours in Rhode Island?

Under the IRS and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “full-time employment” is defined as a minimum of 30 hours of work per week or 130 hours per month. Rhode Island law also states that a “full-time equivalent active employee” is an employee who works a minimum of 30 hours per week within the state, if they meet specific wage criteria.

How many hours straight can you legally work in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, there is no state restriction on the number of hours most employees can work, potentially allowing for up to 24-hour shifts. However, there are specific situations that limit working hours:

  • Regulated industries, like trucking, have caps on consecutive working hours, requiring breaks after a set period.
  • Employees under collective bargaining agreements or employment contracts may have daily working hour limits.
  • Minors aged 16 or 17 are restricted to nine hours per day or 48 hours per week during school sessions.
  • Minors under 16 are limited to three hours on school days and 18 hours weekly during school terms, or eight hours daily and 40 hours weekly during school breaks.

Is overtime after eight hours or 40 hours in Rhode Island?

There are no daily overtime laws in Rhode Island. According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), overtime is calculated weekly. Non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay for any hours worked beyond 40 in a work week, as well as for hours worked on Sundays or holidays.

Does working on the weekend qualify for overtime pay in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, while the FLSA does not mandate additional pay for working weekends or nights, state law requires that employees working on Sundays or holidays be compensated at 1.5 times their regular rate with a minimum guarantee of four hours of pay. The choice to work on these days must be voluntary, and refusal to work on Sundays or holidays cannot lead to discrimination, dismissal, or any other penalties against the employee. This rule does not apply to employees who are exempt from state or federal overtime laws.

How many hours-off between shifts is required in Rhode Island?

There are no federal laws dictating the minimum hours required between shifts for adult workers, leaving employers free to set their own policies. However, for minors under 16, there must be at least an 8-hour gap between shifts. Regulated industries like truck driving also impose certain limits on daily working hours. Additionally, union workers may have specific provisions in their collective bargaining agreements that detail required rest periods between shifts.

What does ‘hours-worked’ include in Rhode Island?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), any time that an employee is “suffered or permitted” to work, whether requested or not, is considered “hours worked”. This includes times when an employee voluntarily continues working past their scheduled shift. Specific rules apply to travel time and meal and rest breaks, depending on the circumstances and the level of employee engagement or restriction:

  • Meal and rest breaks: These are not mandatory under the federal FLSA. However, when short breaks of around five to 20 minutes are offered by employers, this time must be included in the total number of hours-worked. If a 30 minute meal break is given, this time does not need to be compensated for unless the employee is required to remain on duty during this period. 
  • Travel time: Normal travel time to or from work is not typically included in hours-worked in Rhode Island. However, this time is covered if:
    • An employee is required to travel during regular working hours.
    • An employee is required to work during travel time.
    • An employee is required to travel on a one-day assignment away from the official workplace.
    • An employee is required to travel on an overnight assignment away from the official workplace during hours on non-workdays that correspond to the regular working hours.

In addition, Rhode Island minimum wage laws state that employees must be paid for at least three hours at their regular hourly rate if they report to work but are not provided with three hours of work. This rule does not apply to full-time students employed by their academic institutions under certain conditions.

What is the most hours a salaried employee can work in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, salaried employees can work up to 40 hours per standard workweek without overtime compensation. For non-exempt employees, any hours worked beyond 40 must be paid at one and a half times their regular hourly rate. It is advisable for all employees to monitor their work hours to ensure they are compensated fairly, especially if their effective hourly wage might fall below the minimum wage, in which case they might have grounds to file a labor law claim.

What is the maximum number of hours an hourly employee can work in Rhode Island?

For most hourly employees in Rhode Island, there are no legal limits on the number of hours they can work per week, aside from specific regulations in certain industries and under collective bargaining agreements. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only requires that non-exempt employees receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Furthermore, employees working on Sundays and holidays must be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their regular pay, as outlined by state law. 

Overtime Eligibility in Rhode Island

Who is eligible for overtime pay in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, workers are categorized as either exempt or non-exempt. Non-exempt employees, typically hourly employees engaging in manual labor or customer service roles, are entitled to overtime pay. State and federal law mandates that employers pay non-exempt employees 1.5 times their regular rate for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Some examples of exempt employees include computer employees, executives, managers with supervisory roles, administrative staff, commissioned salespeople, and learned professionals like doctors and lawyers.

Who is exempt from overtime pay in Rhode Island?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees are exempt from overtime if they pass these three tests: 

  1. Salary Basis Test: They must earn a fixed salary that does not vary with the number of hours worked.
  2. Salary Level Test: As of January 2024, they must earn at least $684 per week, which will increase to $844 per week starting July 1, 2024, and then to $1,128 per week from January 1, 2025, with further adjustments every three years beginning July 1, 2027.
  3. Duties Test: Their primary duties must involve executive, administrative, or professional tasks that require independent judgment and discretion.

Other exemptions in Rhode Island include airline employees, commissioned sales employees, computer professionals, companions for the elderly, and various types of drivers, among others. Certain seasonal workers, police officers, and various specific roles within the transportation and agricultural sectors are also exempt.

More details on overtime exemptions can be found on the US Department of Labor website.

Can salaried employees get overtime pay in Rhode Island?

Salaried employees can receive overtime pay, unless they meet certain criteria that qualifies them as exempt:

  • Employees who occupy an administrative, professional, or executive role that requires independent judgment and discretion.
  • Those who earn a minimum salary that meets specific thresholds set by law, currently at $684 per week. This threshold is set to increase to $844 per week on July 1, 2024, and again to $1,128 per week from January 1, 2025, with subsequent increases every three years starting from July 1, 2027.

Rhode Island state law also classifies the following employees as exempt:

  • Police officers and salespersons.
  • Employees at seasonal summer camps operating no more than six months annually.
  • Employees such as drivers, helpers, mechanics, and loaders under the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
  • Workers in the agricultural sector.
  • Employees governed by the Railway Labor Act.

Note that when federal and state laws differ, the law that is more favorable to the employee applies.

Overtime Payment Calculations in Rhode Island

What is my regular rate of pay in Rhode Island?

The regular rate of pay is the compensation an employee receives per hour of work, which must at least match the state’s minimum wage ($14.00). For hourly employees, this calculation is straightforward as it corresponds to their hourly wage. However, for other types of pay, the calculation is a little more complex:

Salaried Employees:

  1. Multiply the monthly salary by 12 to get the annual salary.
  2. Divide this annual salary by 52 to find the weekly salary.
  3. Divide the weekly salary by 40 (the standard hours in a workweek) to determine the regular hourly rate.

Piecework or Commission Employees:

  1. Use the piece rate or the commission rate directly.
  2. Divide the total earnings for the week by the total hours worked.
  3. For group work, first calculate the total rate for all pieces produced by the group, then divide by the number of people in the group, and multiply by the hours each person worked to find their individual rate.

How do you calculate overtime in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, overtime compensation is paid at a rate of one-and-a-half times the employee’s standard rate of pay, often referred to as ‘time and a half.’ Non-exempt employees are eligible for this rate for any hours worked beyond 40 in a week.

To calculate overtime pay, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the regular rate of pay for the employee.
  2. Multiply this rate by 1.5 to find the hourly overtime rate.
  3. Multiply this overtime rate by the total hours worked beyond the standard 40 hours to calculate the total overtime compensation due.

How is overtime taxed in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, overtime pay is taxed at the same rate as regular income. The specific tax rate depends on your tax bracket, which is set by your taxable income and filing status.

If overtime significantly increases your total income, you may move into a higher tax bracket, resulting in higher taxes on all your income, not just overtime. This move to a higher tax bracket is temporary and only affects the pay period during which you earned the additional income.

Receiving Overtime Payment in Rhode Island

How is overtime paid in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, overtime is paid using the same methods as regular wages, which may vary based on employer or employee preference and company practices. According to state law, wages must be fully paid either in cash or by checks that can be converted into cash at their full value upon demand. Each payday, employers must provide employees with a detailed statement (pay stub) listing gross wages, net wages, hours worked, legal deductions with explanations, and for those in the commercial construction industry, the hourly regular rate of pay.

When do I receive my overtime paycheck in Rhode Island?

Under the FLSA, employees in Rhode Island should receive their overtime pay on the regular payday for the pay period during which they earned the overtime. Rhode Island mandates that all employers, including state bodies and subdivisions, pay wages within nine days from the end of the payroll period, either in cash or via checks that can be converted to cash. Employees, except those working for the state or religious, literary, or charitable organizations, are generally paid weekly unless their earnings are set on a biweekly, semi-monthly, monthly, or annual basis. Employees must be notified of any changes to the payday schedule at least three paydays before the changes take effect.

Violations of Overtime Law in Rhode Island

What if my employer refuses to pay me overtime in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, refusal to pay overtime is considered a violation of both state and federal labor laws. You should address this by first formally requesting the overdue wages from your employer. If they do not comply, you can file a complaint with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training’s Division of Labor Standards.

Alternatively, you can file a wage complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which has the authority to enforce payment, or initiate a civil lawsuit through a lawyer, typically on a contingency fee basis. 

What is the penalty for failing to pay overtime in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, employers who violate overtime wage regulations face severe consequences. They may be required to pay double the unpaid wages, additional expenses, and legal fees. Employees can sue individually or through class actions for such violations. 

Willful or repeated breaches of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can result in civil penalties up to $1,000 per violation, and intentional violations may lead to criminal charges with fines up to $10,000 and possible imprisonment. Moreover, employees are entitled to liquidated damages equal to the unpaid wages, effectively doubling the compensation for the unpaid overtime. 

Recent legislation in Rhode Island, effective January 1, 2024, has altered the penalties for wage theft slightly. If the value of unearned wages exceeds $1,500, it may lead to potential imprisonment up to three years, a fine up to $5,000, or both. This new law applies to all employers in Rhode Island, irrespective of their size or revenue.

How can I file a wage claim for overtime in Rhode Island?

If an employer fails to pay due wages, the affected employee can initiate a formal complaint with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Division of Labor Standards. There are strict deadlines for filing wage complaints in Rhode Island: a three-year limit for claims through the Department, and a one-year limit if pursuing direct court action for unpaid wages. Additionally, FLSA claims need to be filed within two years of the wage violation. This two-year limit is extendable to three years for willful violations. 

The process for filing a claim with the US Department of Labor is as follows:

  1. Gather as much relevant information as possible; the key to a successful claim.
  2. Contact the DOL by submitting an online form, or calling the helpline at 1-866-487-9243. 
  3. Once initial contact is established, the DOL representative assigned to your case will collaborate with you to identify the best course of action.

Can employers retaliate against employees for making a wage claim in Rhode Island?

No, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who file or threaten to file a wage claim. This protection applies regardless of whether the complaint is verbal or written, and it extends to employees at companies not covered by the FLSA. Affected employees should file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor or pursue independent legal action. Remedies may include reinstatement, compensation for lost wages, and liquidated damages. 

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.