Paid Sick Leave Eyes on Rhode Island

The eyes of the paid-sick-leave world will be on Rhode Island this week. Yes, more municipalities will opt out of the Cook County Earned Sick Leave law during their last week to do so. But Rhode Island legislators have this week only to pass a PSL law and put an end to the wait for “State Number Eight” and to claim that title for itself.  Since no other state legislature is likely to enact a PSL in 2017, Rhode Island is the last possibility. The Ocean State’s legislative session ends Friday, June 30.

Both of Rhode Island’s neighbors–Connecticut and Massachusetts–as well as Arizona, California, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have a paid sick leave law.

The legislative sausage-making has been in high gear to try to reach a compromise on a PSL bill. The Senate bill reported out of the Labor Committee would require employers with at least eleven employees to allow employees to accrue paid sick leave at the rate of one hour for every thirty hours worked to a maximum of 32 hours in 2018 and 40 annually after that. The law would be effective January 1, 2018.

Sausage Making 2Kudos to the drafters for including specific provisions concerning employee abuse of paid sick leave. I had posted some time ago that this topic gets far too little legislative ink, and that if legislators wanted to draw more support from the business community, they need to acknowledge what everyone knows–some percent of employees abuse sick time and a PSL law is a powerful tool to give those abusers. The Senate bill says that:

  • PSL “cannot be used as an excuse to be late for work without an authorized purpose.
  • An employer may discipline an employee for misuse of sick leave if the employee “is committing fraud or abuse by engaging in an activity that is not consistent with allowable purposes for” PSL.
  • “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… unless the employee provides reasonable documentation that the paid sick and safe leave time has been used” for an allowable purpose.

Kudos also to the drafters for including another of my suggestions: that employees try to schedule the foreseeable use of time off “in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.”

There is more to say about the Rhode Island bill but with the sausage-making in high gear, and uncertainty about whether any bill will pass, a comprehensive analysis is premature. I will be watching closely to see if Rhode Island becomes State Number Eight. It’s going to be an exciting PSL week!