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Quick Hits

  • Workers in Rhode Island will receive up to seven weeks of paid time off to bond with a new child or care for a sick family member in 2025. That number will increase to eight weeks in 2026.
  • Domestic workers are now eligible for minimum wage and overtime protections.
  • Independent contractors must file an annual notice of designation under the workers’ compensation law for every entity that retains them.
  • New bills regulate and arbitration agreements and restrictive covenants with nurses.

Temporary Caregiver Insurance Leave

Currently, Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) law allows employees to take up to six weeks of job-protected leave and receive partial wage replacement from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) to bond with a newborn child or a child newly placed for adoption or foster care, or to care for a family member who has a serious health condition.  Under House Bill 7171, the amount of TCI leave an employee can take in a given year will increase to seven weeks starting on January 1, 2025, and again to eight weeks, starting on January 1, 2026.

Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for Domestic Employees

Historically, the Rhode Island Minimum Wage Act exempted domestic workers from its minimum-wage and overtime provisions. House Bill 7532 eliminated that exemption, effective June 24, 2024. As a result, employers must pay individuals employed in domestic service in or about a private home at least the state minimum wage for all hours they work and time and a half for any hours they work over 40 in one workweek.

Workers’ Compensation Filing Requirements for Independent Contractors

Last year, Rhode Island amended its workers’ compensation law to require independent contractors to file a written or electronic notice of designation every year stating they are independent contractors and are exempt from workers’ compensation. This year, Senate Bill 2472 further amended the law to require independent contractors to file a designation notice electronically and clarify that independent contractors must file a notice for each entity that retains them. The designation will lapse if an independent contractor fails to file a notice within 20 days after the DLT notifies them that they failed to file a designation notice. The amendment took effect on June 17, 2024.

Voiding Restrictions on Nurses’ Right to Practice

Effective June 17, 2024, House Bill 7696 prohibits Rhode Island employers from entering into agreements that would deny advanced practice registered nurses the ability to (a) practice in a certain geographic area for a period of time following the end of their employment; (b) treat, advise, consult, or establish a relationship with the employer’s current patients; or (c) solicit or seek to establish a relationship with the employer’s current patients. The law contains an exception for such agreements entered into in connection with the purchase and sale of a practice, provided the length of the post-employment restrictions does not exceed five years.   

Revisions to the Rhode Island Arbitration Act

On June 29, 2024, Senate Bill 2671 took effect and revised the Rhode Island Arbitration Act. The law makes three key revisions potentially impacting employers:

  • Consequences of Failing to Respond to a Demand for Arbitration: Senate Bill 2671 allows a party to an arbitration agreement to send a demand for arbitration to the other party(ies) to the agreement. If a party fails to apply to stay an arbitration within 20 days after receiving such a demand, it waives any objection “that a valid agreement was not made or has not been complied with and from asserting in court the bar of a limitation of time.”
  • Right to Representation: Senate Bill 2671 provides parties with a right to attorney representation in an arbitration. Arbitration agreements cannot penalize or discriminate against a party for retaining an attorney in an arbitration.
  • Consequences of Failing to Pay Arbitration-Related Fees and Costs: Under Senate Bill 2671, if an arbitration agreement, applicable law, or an arbitration provider’s rules require an employer to pay fees and costs before an arbitration can proceed, and the employer fails to pay those fees and costs within 30 days of the date they are due, the employer waives the right to compel arbitration, and the employee may withdraw the claim from arbitration and file a complaint in court, or compel arbitration in which the employer would be responsible for paying “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs related to the arbitration.” Regardless of whether an employee removes their case to court or compels arbitration, the arbitrator or court must impose sanctions on the employer. Such sanctions may include ordering the employer to pay the employee’s expenses (including attorneys’ fees and costs) incurred as a result of the employer’s failure to pay arbitration-related fees and costs, prohibiting the employer from conducting discovery, striking the employer’s pleadings, entering default against the employer, and holding the employer in contempt.

Employers may want to review their arbitration agreements and practices for compliance with Senate Bill 2671, including regarding the potential extent to which the Federal Arbitration Act may preempt any of the bill’s provisions.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Rhode Island blog.

Francesco A. DeLuca is a shareholder in Boston, Massachusetts, and Providence, Rhode Island.

This article was co-authored by Leah J. Shepherd, who is a writer in Ogletree Deakins’ Washington, D.C. office.

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