The Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of country of ancestral origin (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-5-1 et seq.). Practices or policies that discriminate against immigrants legally eligible for employment may constitute national origin discrimination, in violation of the Act. The law applies to all public employers and private employers with four or more employees. Separate laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of national origin in state employment (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 28-5.1-1 et seq.) and in transactions involving contracts and property (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 42-112-1 et seq.).
Citizenship requirements that are made a condition of employment discriminate on the basis of national origin in violation of the state law. Inquiries about a person's citizenship or country of birth are unlawful and imply discrimination on the basis of national origin.
The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights enforces the Fair Employment Practices Act. The Commission is authorized to initiate, receive, and investigate discrimination complaints, issue subpoenas, hold hearings, issue administrative decisions and orders, and enforce its orders in state court. Remedies may include hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay with benefits and interest, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and legal fees. A person alleging illegal discrimination may also, in certain circumstances, file a private lawsuit in state court to enforce rights under the law.