The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exception applies (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-5-1 et seq.). The law applies to all public employers and to private employers with four or more employees. There is additional information on this and other Rhode Island civil rights laws. .
Sexual orientation. “Sexual orientation” means having, or being perceived as having, an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.
Gender identity. “Gender identity” means a person's actual or perceived gender identity, gender-related self-image or appearance, or gender-related expression, regardless of whether it is different from that traditionally associated with that person's sex at birth (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-5-6).
Employee benefits. Employers are prohibited from discriminating between male and female employees with regard to fringe benefits, including insurance and retirement, profit-sharing, and bonus plans. Making benefits available on the basis of whether an employee is a “head of household,” “principal wage earner,” or other similar status is illegal.
Marital status. Employment-related distinctions based on marital status that are not applied equally to male and female employees are prohibited.
BFOQ. It may be permissible to make employment decisions based on sex because of a BFOQ (e.g., a females-only policy for models in a women's clothing store; requiring a male actor for the role of a male character). Rhode Island law requires, however, that employers must first have a ...