Rhode Island Proposed Sick Leave Rules Seem to Expand the Law

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training issued proposed rules concerning the state’s Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2018.  Two of the proposed rules seem to go beyond what the law requires and go where other PSL laws do not venture.

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Accrual of Paid Sick Leave

The statute says that employees accrue an hour of paid sick and safe leave time for every thirty-five (35) hours worked.

The proposed rule says: “Employees shall accrue earned sick time or PSSL benefits for all hours worked and all hours paid while collecting paid time off benefits, including but not limited to holiday pay, personal time, sick time and vacation time.” (Italics added)

My comment: Hours worked and hours paid are two very different concepts. The standard in the 40+ PSL laws nationwide is that employees accrue time off based on hours worked, not hours paid.

Documentation to Support the Need for Leave

The statute says: “For paid sick and safe leave time of more than three (3) consecutive work days, an employer may require reasonable documentation that the paid sick and safe leave time has been used for a purpose covered by [the law]….” It then specifies the types of documentation that shall be considered reasonable.

The proposed rule says: “Any expense or burden on an employee shall be considered to be unreasonable if the total cost to the employee to obtain certification regarding their absence is more than two times their hourly rate of pay. In determining the total cost to the employee, costs such as administrative, government or medical fees, and transportation cost shall be included.”

My Comment: The statute does not impose a cost or burden limitation on an employer’s entitlement to reasonable documentation. There’s a waiting limitation (more than 3 consecutive work days of PSSL time) but that’s it. The proposed rule creates an additional hurdle. PSL laws do not typically impose a cost limitation relating to obtaining documentation.

The comment period on the proposed rules closes on April 8.