Rhode Island Joins the Paid Sick and Safe Leave Bandwagon

Posted on: October 5, 2017 0

By Marti Cardi, VP-Product Compliance
& Gail Cohen, Director-Employment Law/Compliance

Rhode Island has joined the plethora of states that have passed paid sick and safe leave legislation for the state’s workers. The Rhode Island “Healthy and Safe Families Workplace Act” (H5413/S290) was signed into law by the Governor on September 28, 2017.

The basics. Effective July 1, 2018, Rhode Island employees of an employer with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island will earn one hour of paid leave time for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours of accrued paid sick and safe leave in 2018, 32 hours in 2019, and 40 hours in 2020 and thereafter. Employees can carry over any unused, accrued paid time; however, the use of such time is still subject to the maximums (i.e. 24 hours in 2018, etc.). Accrued but unused sick and safe time is not payable to the employee upon termination.

Employees begin to accrue leave as of July 1, 2018, or their date of hire, whichever is later. While employees can begin to earn and accrue leave, employers can impose a waiting period of up to 90 days for new hires before they can take any accrued time. Temporary employees must wait up to 180 days to use any accrued leave (unless the employer agrees otherwise).

Leave reasons.  Employees may use sick and safe leave for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; need for preventive care, diagnosis,
    or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition.
  • Care of a family member for the same reasons as the employee’s own needs.
  • When an employer’s business or the employee’s child’s childcare facility or school is closed
    due to a public health emergency.
  • When the employee or his or her family is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Covered relationships. “Family member” is broadly defined under the Act to include: child (biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter, a stepson or stepdaughter, a legal ward, a son or daughter of a domestic partner, or a son or daughter of an employee who stands in loco parentis to that child), parent, spouse or domestic partner, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, care recipient, or member of the employee’s household. A “care recipient” is a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health or safety related care.


Employee notice and documentation.
Employees are required to provide notice (in the means designated by the employer in its policy) where the need for leave is foreseeable. Employer may also require documentation (again, as long as the employer has a policy that says so) for leaves of 3 or more consecutive work days. The documentation requirement is quite limited and only allows for documentation that the leave is for a permissible purpose. The employer may not require documentation regarding the nature of the illness or details of the domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.


Permitted employee discipline.
This Act also incorporates a few safeguards for employers:

  • An employer may discipline, up to and including termination of employment, an employee who is committing
    fraud or abuse by engaging in an activity that is not consistent with an allowable purpose for paid sick and
    safe leave;
  • An employer may also discipline an employee (again up to termination) who exhibits a clear pattern of taking
    leave just before or after a weekend, vacation, or holiday if the employee is unable to provide reasonable
    documentation that the leave has been taken for a permissible purpose.

 

Pings for Employers with Rhode Island Workers:

 Ensure that your pay practices are in order and ready to provide for the necessary accruals and usage accounting starting July 1, 2018

Draft a clear policy governing Rhode Island paid sick and safe leave. At a minimum, be sure to specify the means by which employees must give notice of the need for Rhode Island paid sick and safe leave (e.g., by email, other written request, verbal to supervisor, a call-in line, etc.) and your documentation requirements within the parameters of the law. Be sure your employees know about these policies by special notice, new hire notice, including in your employee handbook, and/or posting in areas in which workers congregate like lunch or break rooms.

 

Leave rights for victims of domestic violence:  Growing need,  multi-state trend

Posted on: July 13, 2017 0

By Marti Cardi, VP-Product Compliance

& Gail Cohen, Director-Employment Law/Compliance

 

If you don’t think you need to know about state leave laws that protect victims of domestic violence and similar crimes, consider this:

  • More than 27% of women and 11% of men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Commonly reported negative impacts were feeling fearful, concern for safety, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Significantly more women and men with a history of sexual violence or stalking reported asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and limitations in their activities compared to those without a history of these forms of violence.

Centers for Disease Control 2010-2012 State Report fact sheet, accessed July 12, 2017.

In other words, many of your employees are among these victims.

At Matrix we see a comparatively small number of domestic violence leave requests.  As a good employer, are you educating your employees on their rights to this type of leave in certain states or under company policies?  We have no statistics for this, but it seems logical that leave taken early, when needed, may reduce the need for more extensive time off later.  And as an employer you’ve done the right thing.

Some of the victims’ needs, such as treatment for and recovery from physical and mental injuries resulting from the violence, may be eligible for job-protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state laws.  However, these victims often require time off for other related issues such as protecting their families by moving to a new location, obtaining counseling, and obtaining a court-issued protective order.

For these reasons, the number of states enacting or expanding laws that provide leave of absence specifically for victims of domestic violence is increasing.  Nevada is the latest to join the ranks, and California has expanded its notice requirements effective July 1 (see story below).

Nevada enacts leave for victims of domestic violence

Effective January 1, 2018, Nevada employers will be required to provide leave to eligible employees who are a victim of domestic violence or whose “family or household member” is the victim of domestic violence.

Under the Nevada law, an employee must have been employed for at least 90 days to be eligible for the leave. Eligible employees may take up to 160 hours of leave (equivalent to 20 8-hour days) in a 12-month period, continuously or intermittently, within 12 months of the date of the act of domestic violence that necessitated the leave.  The Nevada leave will run concurrently with FMLA if taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason (for example, to get treatment for and recover from incapacitating injuries or care for a family member).

Domestic violence is defined as an act committed by a spouse, former spouse, person with whom the victim has a dating relationship or shares a child, and other relationships, and includes acts such as assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, larceny, compelling an unwanted action, and trespassing.

Following any immediate leave necessitated by the incident of domestic violence, an employee must provide at least 48 hours’ advance notice to the employer of leave for any of the following reasons:

  • For the diagnosis, care or treatment of a health condition related to an act which constitutes domestic violence committed against the employee or family or household member of the employee;
  • To obtain counseling or assistance related to an act which constitutes domestic violence committed against the employee or family or household member of the employee;
  • To participate in any court proceedings related to an act which constitutes domestic violence committed against the employee or family or household member of the employee; or
  • To establish a safety plan, including, without limitation, any action to increase the safety of the employee or the family or household member of the employee from a future act which constitutes domestic violence.

Employers may require documentation supporting the need for leave, such as a police report, copy of an application for an order for protection, an affidavit from an organization which provides services to victims of domestic violence or documentation from a physician.

“Family or household member” means a: (1) Spouse; (2) Domestic partner; (3) Minor child; (4) Parent; (5) other adult person who is related within the first degree of consanguinity or affinity to the employee; or (6) other adult person who is or was actually residing with the employee at the time of the act which constitutes domestic violence.

The law also requires Nevada employers to make reasonable accommodation(s) to employees who are victims of domestic violence or whose family or household member is a victim of domestic violence.  Accommodations may include transfer or reassignment; a modified schedule; a new telephone number for work; or any other reasonable accommodations which will not create an undue hardship deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the employee, the workplace, the employer or other employees. 

The Nevada bill protects employees from adverse employment actions based on taking leave as permitted by the act.

Employers are required to maintain records of leave taken for 2 years and to post a notice of employee rights. The Nevada Department of Labor is working on a form of notice for employers to post.

To read the full text of the Nevada law, click here: https://legiscan.com/NV/text/SB361/id/1628891

Domestic violence leaves in other states

With this law Nevada joins the following states that have similar domestic violence leave laws (although they vary in details by state):  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Oregon.

In addition to these specific “personal protection” leaves, virtually all states have laws that provide job protection for victims or witnesses for time spent testifying in court or assisting prosecuting attorneys with respect to various crimes, not just crimes relating to domestic violence.  These laws generally do not have any employee eligibility requirements, notice requirements, or duration limitation.

Reminder:  California employers must start providing notice of domestic violence leave rights July 1

California law requires employers to provide leave of absence rights for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Leave reasons including taking time off from work to get help to protect the employee’s and employee’s children’s health, safety or welfare, including time off to get a restraining order or other court order.  The text of the law can be viewed at this link.

Effective July 1, 2017, employers must provide a notice of employee rights under the law to all new workers upon hire and to other employees upon request.  The Labor Commissioner has developed and posted a form that employers may use to comply with the notice requirements.

Pings for employers.   Employers should copy the form and distribute it to all current employees and add it to their new-hire packets.  In addition, although the law does not specifically require this, a great extra step is to post the notice on bulletin boards in employee break rooms and wherever other employment-related notices are posted.

 

MATRIX CAN HELP!  Matrix provides leave, disability, and accommodation management services to employers seeking a comprehensive and compliant solution to these complex employer obligations. We monitor the many leave laws being passed around the country and specialize in understanding how they work together. For leave management and accommodation assistance, contact us at ping@matrixcos.com.