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2022 Legislation Update – Rhode Island

Mandatory Human Trafficking Awareness Poster for Hotels

On July 9, 2021, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee signed legislation (HB 5270) requiring every hotel operator to conspicuously post a human trafficking awareness sign in the workplace, printed in an easily readable font, in English and any other language spoken by at least ten percent of the employees. The notice must have information about the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline and clearly state:

“If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any work or commercial sexual activity and cannot leave, call the toll-free National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to access help and services. The toll-free hotline is:

    • Available twenty-four (24) hours a day, seven (7) days a week;
    • Operated by a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization;
    • Anonymous and confidential;
    • Accessible in one hundred seventy (170) languages; and
    • Able to provide help, referral to services, training, and general information.”

The law is effective January 1, 2022.

Temporary Caregiver Benefits

On July 6, 2021, the Rhode Island Governor signed legislation (HB 6090) increasing the maximum number of weeks that a temporary caregiver can take under the state’s temporary caregiver insurance program from four weeks per benefit year to:

    • Five weeks per benefit year beginning January 1, 2022; and
    • Six weeks per benefit beginning January 1, 2023.

Wage Discrimination

On July 6, 2021, the Rhode Island governor signed legislation (HB 5261) amending the state’s sex-based wage discrimination law by prohibiting employers from paying any of its employees less than they pay employees of another race, or color, or religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin for comparable work. Any contract entered into after January 1, 2023 with a variation in pay rates based on these protected characteristics is null and void. Wage differentials are permitted under certain circumstances but must be fair and not pretext for an unlawful wage differential. However, an individual’s wage history can’t justify, by itself, an otherwise unlawful wage differential and employers that discriminate in violation of the law can’t, in order to comply, reduce the wages of another employee.

Under the law, employers can’t prohibit employees from discussing their, or another employee’s, wages or retaliate against them for any wage discussions. However, employees aren’t required to disclose their wages and the law doesn’t limit their rights under a collective bargaining agreement.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against any applicant or employee for asserting their rights, or encouraging others to do so, under the law. Employers must also conspicuously post a workplace notice that informs employees of their rights and employer obligations.

Wage History and Range

The law also prohibits employers from:

    • Relying on an applicant’s wage history when deciding whether to hire them;
    • Requiring that their prior wages satisfy minimum or maximum criteria as a condition of being considered for the job;
    • Relying on applicant’s wage history to determine how much to pay them if they’re hired; or
    • Asking about their wage history.

After making an initial job offer, with pay, employers can rely on wage history to support paying an applicant a higher wage than what they were originally offered if:

    • The applicant voluntarily gives the employer their wage history; and
    • Without employer prompting.

Then, employers can confirm an applicant’s wage history to support the higher wage, and rely on it, but the higher wage can’t create an unlawful pay differential based on protected characteristics.

Employers aren’t penalized for knowing their own employee’s wage history and may verify information voluntarily given to them by an applicant about their:

    • Unvested equity or deferred compensation that they would forfeit, or have cancelled, if they resign from their current employer; or
    • Any voluntary disclosure of non-wage related information.

Employers may request a background check that does not seek wage history but if it discloses the applicant’s wage history, then that information can’t be used to determine their wage, benefits, or other compensation during the hiring process, including during employment contract negotiations.

Applicants can request, and employers must provide, a wage range for the job they’re applying and it should be provided before they talk about pay. Employers must also:

    • Give employees the wage range for their job when they’re hired; and
    • When they move to a new job.

Employees may also request, and must be given, the wage range for their job during the course of their employment. Employers can’t retaliate or discriminate against an applicant or employee because they didn’t provide their wage history or they requested a wage range.

The law is effective January 1, 2023.

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