Three New Laws Plus Supreme Court Decision on "Windsor" Impact Employers

There are multiple nuances to each new law and specific recommendations for your company’s workplace. Contact Roger Hood or Rachelle Green if we can help you navigate compliance with these new laws.

  1. Starting on January 1st, RI employers will no longer be able to ask job applicants about their criminal past on an employment application (the “ban the box” legislation). Unless otherwise required by law (a bank teller, for example), an employer can only question an applicant about his/her criminal history as part of a first interview.  Employers should review their employment applications now to be certain that the applications meet RI law.
  2. Medical marijuana is now legal in RI, MA and a number of other states. Employers have a right to control employee use of marijuana in the workplace despite the fact that it is a legal, prescribed drug under RI law. If your employee handbook does not specifically address use of marijuana as part of your drug and alcohol policy, your policy should be updated.
  3. RI employers have, historically, treated non-FMLA leave requests for pregnancy and other care-giving requirements as unpaid leave under a company’s leave-of-absence policy. With RI’s new temporary caregiver leave law taking effect in January, employers will now be required to give employees up to four weeks of unpaid leave for the care of a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, or new child.  Employees are entitled to be restored to the same position on return to work.
  4. With the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, employers with over 50 employees in states that ban same-sex marriage have some tricky issues to deal with regarding FMLA leave. If your company has over 50 employees in states that ban same-sex marriage (about 30 states), it is important to understand the complexities that employers must address.