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Governor Raimondo Declaration of a State of Emergency due to COVID-19 and Implications for R.I. Employers

On March 9, 2020, Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, declared a state of emergency in response to the onset of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”).  As part of her declaration, Governor Raimondo announced that the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (“RIDLT”) has established an assistance line that employers may contact regarding their COVID-19 employment-related questions and concerns.  The DLT can be reached at 401-462-2020 and via email at dlt.covid19@dlt.ri.gov.

In addition, the DLT also issued a “Workplace Fact Sheet” addressing COVID-19 concerns.  The Fact Sheet can be viewed at http://www.dlt.state.ri.us/pdfs/COVID-19%20Workplace%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.  Pursuant to the DLT Fact Sheet, employers who either close their operations or require employees to remain home will be required to:

  1. Allow employees the use of all available paid or unpaid leave mandated by the Rhode Island Sick and Safe Leave Act;
  2. Allow employees the use of all available paid and unpaid leave as outlined under the employer’s leave policies and procedures; and
  3. Allow employees the use of available job-protected RIPFMLA leave

Based upon the DLT fact sheet, the State of Rhode Island is not requiring employers to compensate their employees, beyond available paid leave, for the time employees remain out of work.  To ease the financial burden placed on such employees, the DLT has announced that employees whose workplace remains open but are unable to work because they have been either diagnosed with COVID-19 or display symptoms related to the virus may be eligible for temporary disability insurance benefits (“TDI”).  Further, employees whose workplace is closed due to concerns related to COVID-19 may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits (“UI”).  Given the urgency of the current circumstances, the DLT has filed emergency regulations that:

  1. Waive the seven-day waiting period for regular unemployment insurance claims;
  2. Waive the seven-day minimum amount of time that claimants must be out of work to qualify for TDI; and
  3. Waive the required medical certification for individuals under quarantine, and, instead, allow them to qualify via self-attestation as to the self-quarantine.

Businesses requiring additional guidance regarding the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, or the obligations to employees who are out of work due to COVID-19 outbreak, can contact Robert Brooks rbrooks@apslaw.com, Michael Chittick mchittick@apslaw.com

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Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

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