Rhode Island Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Rhode Island

A Summary of Rhode Island Whistleblower Laws

Rhode Island is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, the state has protections that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. Rhode Island does not have a common law protection since the state does not recognize any public policy as an exception to the at-will doctrine. Therefore, whistleblowers who suffer wrongful retaliation can only rely on the state’s statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., minimum wage.

This is a summary of Rhode Island Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Rhode Island

Statutory Protections

The Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting to a public body a suspected violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation which has occurred or will occur.
  • Receiving a request by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry held by the public body or court action.
  • Refusing to participate in the violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation.
  • Providing evidence of a report concerning a violation that was made by the employee.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-50-3.

Hazardous Substances

Employers are not allowed to discipline or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Under this statute, employees have a right to request information concerning substances that may be used in the workplace from their employers. If an employee does not receive such information, he or she has the right to refuse to work under certain circumstances. R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-21-8(2).

Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices that are forbidden under this statute.
  • Making a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in a proceeding, investigation, or hearing under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discriminate against their employers or applicants of employment on the basis of race or color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin. R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7(5).

Minimum Wage

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning unpaid wages with the employer or director of labor and training.
  • Instituting or intending to institute a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Serving on a wage board.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-12-16.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 23-1.1-14(a),28-20-21.

Wage Discrimination Based on Sex

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute with the employer, director of labor and training, or any other person.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-6-21.

Long-Term Care Ombudsperson Act

Long-term care facilities are not allowed to discipline or in any way discriminate against an employee or officer of the facility in retaliation for:

  • Communicating with the long-term care ombudsperson.
  • Providing information to the long-term care ombudsperson to assist in the enforcement of his or her duties.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-66.7-8.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Rhode Island

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation lawsuits should be filed within 3 years of the retaliatory action.

The Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed in the appropriate court within 3 years of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights (RICHR) within 1 year of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Health and Safety

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Division of Occupational Safety within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

Hazardous Substances

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action or within 90 days of learning about the retaliatory action.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Rhode Island

To file a complaint with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, call (401) 462-8570.

To file a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, call (401) 222-2661.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Rhode Island

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee or individual may be liable to the aggrieved employee/individual for a combination or any of these remedies:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Hiring, reinstatement, or promotion with or without back pay.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Actual damages.
  • Litigation fees, including attorney’s fees and expert witness fees.
  • Plus any other relief deemed appropriate.

The Rhode Island Whistleblowers’ Protection Act

Violators of this act may be liable to the aggrieved individual for injunctive relief, actual damages, reinstatement, back wages, reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, litigation costs, or any combination of these remedies.

Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved individual for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Hiring, reinstatement, or promotion with or without back pay.
  • Admission or restoration to union membership.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Litigation fees, including attorney’s fees and expert witness fees.

In the case of willful discriminatory practices, the aggrieved individual may be awarded compensatory damages.

Hazardous Substances

Employers who violate this statute may be liable for a fine not exceeding $5000 for every day the violation exists. Employers who willfully and intentionally violate this statute may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than 1 year for each violation.

Minimum Wage

Employers who violate this statute may be liable for a fine ranging from $100 to $500.

Long-Term Care Ombudsperson Act

Violators of this statute may be liable for a fine not exceeding $1000 for each violation.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Rehiring or reinstatement of the complainant with back pay.
  • Reinstatement of benefits.

Wage Discrimination Based on Sex

Employers who violate this statute may be punished by a fine not exceeding $200 or by imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or by both fine and imprisonment.

More Rhode Island Laws

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