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Employment Laws in Rhode Island

Filed under Hiring Workers. Fact checked on June 7, 2013.

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Employers in Rhode Island must conform to these state rules relating to the employment relationship.

An employee does not include an individual employed by his or her parents, spouse or child or in the domestic service of any person.

Employers include employers in Rhode Island of four or more individuals and any agent of an employer.

Employer does not include religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies with respect to the employment of individuals of its religion to perform work connected with the carrying on of its activities.

Prohibited Employment Discrimination

It is an unlawful employment practice to base employment decisions or refuse to hire any individual because of:

  • race
  • color
  • religion,
  • sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • disability
  • age (40 and over)
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity or expression
  • national origin
  • use of tobacco during nonworking hours
  • seeking (or refusing to seek) a protective order under domestic abuse laws

Workplace harassment complaints. When a employee has made an internal complaint alleging harassment in the workplace on the basis of race or color, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or country of ancestral origin, it is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to disclose in a timely manner in writing to that employee the disposition of the complaint.

AIDS. Employment discrimination based on a positive AIDS test or the perception of a positive AIDS test is prohibited.

Sexual orientation. Rhode Island employers are prohibited from discriminating against any individual on the basis of sexual orientation.

Arrest records. Employers may not include on any employment application, except for applications for law enforcement agency positions or related positions, a question inquiring either orally or in writing whether the person has ever been arrested or charged with any crime. Employers may inquire whether the individual has ever been convicted of any crime.

Smoking. Employers are prohibited from requiring an employee to refrain from smoking as a condition of employment or continued employment or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, unless the employer is a nonprofit organization with one of its primary purposes or objectives being to discourage the use of tobacco products by the general public.

An employer may not discharge, refuse to hire or in any manner retaliate against an employee, applicant for employment or customer because that employee, applicant or customer exercises any rights afforded by the Public Health and Workplace Safety Act or reports or attempts to prosecute a violation of this law.

Uncorrected vision. Covered entities cannot use qualification standards, employment tests, or other selection criteria based on an individual's uncorrected vision unless the standard, test, or other selection criteria, as used by the covered entity, is shown to be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.

Temporary employees. The Temporary Employee Protection Act requires temporary employment agencies to provide notification of new job descriptions, potential job hazards, anticipated pay rates, benefits and work schedules.

Civil unions. Civil unions, legal unions between two individuals of the same sex, are legal in Rhode Island. Parties to a civil union have the same rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities under the law as people joined together in marriage.

Same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is legalized effective August 1, 2013.

Effective February 20, 2007, Rhode Island will recognize a same-sex marriage lawfully performed in Massachusetts as a marriage in Rhode Island.

Homeless Bill of Rights. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals seeking or maintaining employment based on their lack of a permanent mailing address or a mailing address that is a shelter or social services provider.

Recordkeeping/Posting Requirements

Every employer must post notices approved by the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights in a conspicuous place.

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