Rhode Island Termination (with Discharge) laws & HR compliance analysis

Rhode Island Termination (with Discharge): What you need to know

Rhode Island is an “employment-at-will” state. Therefore, an employer may generally terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason. However, a federal or state law, collective bargaining agreement, or individual employment contract may place further limitations on an otherwise at-will relationship.
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As a general rule, if a federal, state, or local law grants employees the right to engage in an activity or to enjoy a benefit, employees should never be disciplined, discharged, or otherwise retaliated against for requesting or attempting to do so.
To list a few key examples, state law prohibits employers from discharging employees for engaging in the following activities:
Burden of proof. If the employer is charged with retaliatory discharge, the employer is innocent until proven guilty. While this rule affords some protection to the employer, circumstantial evidence, such as a string of good evaluations followed by a sudden turnaround, can be devastating.
As a result, if you terminate an employee who has filed a wage/hour claim, a discrimination claim, etc., it is essential to be able to show conclusively, with both testimony and documentation, that the separation had no relation to any legally protected conduct by the employee.
Family military leave. Employers are prohibited from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under the Rhode Island Military Family Relief Act (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 30-33-5).
Jury duty. Employers may not retaliate against employees for serving on a jury (RI Gen. Laws Sec. 9-9-28).
Military service. Employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against employees because they ...

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