Rhode Island Wage Law Explained

If you believe you’ve been deprived of the compensation to which you’re legally entitled, please contact the Lore Law Firm. Our overtime rights lawyers represent Rhode Island employees who have been subjected to workplace wage and hour violations and take cases on a contingent fee basis – no fee if no recovery of backpay.

Understanding Rhode Island Wage and Overtime Laws

While Rhode Island does have certain state labor laws that differ from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the state law applies only in instances where it provides greater rights or protections than federal law.  Whichever law (state or federal) is more favorable to the worker will apply. In most instances, however, federal law will cover issues involving overtime pay and minimum wage.  

Minimum Wage

Rhode Island minimum wage rates per year: 

  • 1/1/2025: $15.00 per hour
  • 1/1/2024: $14.00 per hour
  • 1/1/2023: $13.00 per hour
  • 1/1/2022: $12.25 per hour
  • 1/1/2020: $11.50 per hour
  • 1/1/2019: $10.50 per hour
  • 1/1/2018: $10.10 per hour
  • 1/1/2016:  $9.60 per hour

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Full-time students under 19 years of age working in nonprofit religious, educational, librarial, or community service organizations may be paid 90% of the applicable minimum wage.

14 and 15 year olds who do not work more than 24 hours in a week may be 75% of the applicable minimum wage.

Overtime Pay 

Rhode Island state labor laws regarding the payment of overtime are largely consistent with the federal overtime laws. As most employers are covered by the FLSA, generally the FLSA will apply and requires employers to pay time and a-half for all hours worked over 40 per workweek, unless an employee is properly classified as exempt.

For minimum wage workers in Rhode Island, the overtime pay rate amounts to $15.75 per hour (1.5 x $10.50).

Reporting Time / Show-Up Pay

Rhode Island wage laws do require reporting pay or show-up pay when workers show up for a scheduled shift but are sent home due to no available work.  If an employee reports for work at the beginning of a work shift and the employer offers no work to perform, the employer must still pay the employee for three (3) hours at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

An employer doesn’t violate overtime laws by requiring employees to work overtime, (ie “mandatory overtime”), as long as they are properly compensated at the premium rate required by law.

Which Employees are Entitled to Overtime Pay

Most workers in Rhode Island are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. In certain circumstances, however, there are exemptions. 

Employees engaged in executive, administrative, or professional capacities (and paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis) are exempt from the overtime requirement. Note that new minimum salary requirements for these overtime exemptions take effect in January 2020 and increase the minimum salary threshold to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually). This change in federal law will also apply to most workers in Rhode Island when making the determination of whether they are classified as exempt or non-exempt from the overtime pay laws.

Misclassification of Independent Contractors

Misclassification occurs when a business treats its workers as independent contractors (or subcontractors) rather than employees to avoid legal obligations such as social security taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and overtime pay.

While there are situations in which workers are legitimately running their own business and properly treated as independent contractors who are not entitled to receive overtime, employers are not allowed to mischaracterize employee roles to avoid paying overtime compensation

Merely labeling a worker as an independent contractor, or even entering into a written agreement, is not enough to avoid the labor laws on overtime pay. 

There are several factors to be considered in determining if a worker in Rhode Island is an employee or independent contractor (a/k/a 1099 employee) 

If properly classified as an independent contractor under Rhode Island law, workers are typically eligible for only the specific compensation bargained for in a contract. 

Payroll Deductions

Except for federal taxes, state taxes and social security charges, deductions from wages are not permitted. However, an employer who provides a loan or advance against future earnings or wages may deduct the amount as a setoff or counterclaim only if evidenced by a statement in writing signed by the employee.

Deductions for alleged damage to employer’s property or for rent due employer are specifically prohibited.  Also barred are deductions connected with past or present indebtedness.

Deductions from an employee’s wages for pension, welfare, vacation, health plan and annuity of life coverage are allowed without the employee’s written permission, provided a collective bargaining agreement is in force.

Deductions for union dues, health care coverage, United Way, payroll savings, stock purchase, pension plan, or insurance are permitted with the written authorization of the employee.

Deductions of premium for prepaid legal services are permitted with the written authorization of the employee.

Tipped Employees

As of Jan. 1, 2017, Rhode Island employers are permitted to take an allowance for gratuities as part of the hourly wage rate for restaurants, hotels, and other industries except taxicabs and limited public motor vehicles in an amount equal to the applicable minimum rates less $3.89 per hour.

Tipped workers must be paid at least $3.89 per hour and the amount of tips received must bring this amount to $10.50 as of January 1, 2019, for all hours worked.

Wage Payments

Rhode Island law requires that an employer establish a regular payday on which wages shall be paid in full in cash, or checks on banks convertible into cash on demand. Every payday shall fall within 9 days of the end of a payroll period. Every employee shall be notified in writing, or by posted notice that may be readily seen, of a change in the scheduled payday at least 3 paydays in advance of a scheduled change. Employees may request their net wages be deposited into their checking or savings account to their financial organization with written authorization.

Pay Stubs / Pay Statements

Rhode Island labor law requires that employers provide employees a statement of the hours worked during the applicable pay period and a record of all deductions made from employee’s gross earnings with an explanation of the basis or reason for such deductions.

Meal and Rest Breaks

The Rhode Island Wage and Hour Laws require that a  20 minute meal period must be given during a six-hour shift, and a 30 minute meal period be given during an eight-hour shift. This does not include healthcare facilities or companies employing less than three employees at one site during a shift.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that an employer give employees any mandatory rest breaks or meal breaks.

Vacation or Holiday Leave

Rhode Island doesn’t require employers to provide workers with paid or unpaid vacation leave.

However, when an employee is separated from employment after completing at least 1 year of service, any vacation pay accrued by collective bargaining, company policy or other agreement between employer and employee shall become wages and payable in full or on a prorated basis with all other due wages on the next regular payday for the employee.

Statute of Limitations

Rhode Island’s deadline for filing an overtime claim adheres to the FLSA, which requires those seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages file a lawsuit within two years from the date of the employer’s wage violation. So, a lawsuit filed today would be able to seek recovery of back overtime for only the prior 2 (sometimes 3) years.

As an example, suppose you believe that your employer has failed to pay you proper overtime wages since January 1, 2016. Waiting until June 1, 2019, to file your lawsuit means you are only allowed to seek unpaid wages from June 1, 2017, to June 1, 2019.

The statute of limitations may be extended to three years if an employer’s violation of the FLSA was willful. An FLSA violation is deemed willful if the employer knew that its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA or showed reckless disregard.

Penalties for Violations

Under federal law, employers who fail to pay proper overtime wages may be liable for up to double the amount of unpaid back wages plus costs and attorney’s fees incurred by employees. These cases can be brought by overtime pay lawyers on a class or collective basis on behalf of all workers who were subjected to the same illegal pay practices.

Layoffs, Plant Closings and WARN Notices

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) offers protection to Rhode Island workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs. This notice must be provided to either affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union).

An employer who violates the WARN Act by failing to provide appropriate notice is liable to each employee for an amount up to 60 days back pay and benefits for the period of violation.

Lore Law Firm is On Your Side 

At the Lore Law Firm, we represent salaried, hourly, and day-rate workers in an array of employment litigation matters, including unpaid overtime compensation claims in Rhode Island. Our attorneys, and the Rhode Island overtime law attorneys we associate with, are passionate about protecting the rights of workers and have helped recover millions of dollars in unpaid overtime wages for our clients.

Contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.