By Roger Hood | In November 2013, the Rhode Island Superior Court confirmed in its “Park Row” decision that, other than by specific exemption, RI employers must pay their employees time-and-a-half for hours worked on Sunday and holidays.
The guidelines in Rhode Island for paying employees for Sunday labor have taken many twists and turns. Before 1998, state law granted the RI Department of Labor and Training the authority to exempt certain classes of employers from the time-and-a-half requirement for work conducted on Sundays that was an “absolute necessity.” As a result, the DLT issued regulations defining certain classes of employers that were exempt under the absolute necessity standard.
In 1998, however, the Rhode Island General Assembly essentially eliminated the DLT’s authority to issue exemptions under the absolute necessity standard. Instead, the amended law required that work on Sundays and holidays be paid at the premium rate unless a class of business was specifically exempted by statute or through a formal petition to the DLT.
Classes of businesses that are currently exempt from this requirement include: manufacturers that operate three shifts, seven days a week; chauffeur limousine services that operate seven days per week, twenty-four hours per day; and rental car companies at T.F. Green Airport.
In 2002 and again in 2007, the DLT refiled regulations that referred back to the pre-1998 absolute necessity standard. With Park Row, the Superior Court affirmed that the absolute necessity standard no longer applied after the 1998 amendment.
Under the statute, the DLT can only grant exemptions by formal petition to an entire class of employers rather than to an individual employer. To petition the DLT for an exemption for a class of employers, a business must file a formal written statement with the Director of the DLT outlining: (1) a description of the class of employers the business seeks to exempt, (2) a description of that class’s operational requirements that necessitates such exemption, (3) the approximate number of the petitioner’s employees who typically work on Sundays and holidays, and (4) a statement of economic necessity justifying the exemption.
The DLT will either deny the request or grant an exemption for that employer class, or notify the petitioning employer of the DLT’s intent to draft regulations for the exempted class. A petitioning employer has ten days to appeal if the request is denied.
The Superior Court’s decision confirms that, unless specifically exempted, all RI employers must pay their employees time-and-a-half for Sundays and holidays. Accordingly, employers should confirm that their Sunday and holiday pay provisions are in compliance with current Rhode Island law.
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