Employer Alert: New Rhode Island Law Creates Cause of Action for Employees Disciplined for Attending Court

By: Kristen M. Whittle

On June 6, 2016, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into effect a new law prohibiting employers from terminating or otherwise disciplining employees for attending court or other quasi-judicial or administrative hearing pursuant to a lawfully issued subpoena.

The act states that, “[a]n employer shall not discharge, threaten, or otherwise take any adverse action against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment…when an employee has been duly served with a subpoena, to give evidence or testify before any court within or without the state of Rhode Island…”

An employer’s failure to comply with this law may result in liability for damages, including actual damages, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Although the new law does not require employers to compensate employees for time missed from work for complying with a subpoena, employers must provide leave to an employee who notifies the employer promptly after having been served with a properly issued subpoena.

Moving forward, employers should ensure that any leave provisions within personnel policies or handbooks reflect this new legal requirement. As always, Barton Gilman stands ready to assist in guiding employers through this process.

A full copy of the law, which took effect upon passage on June 6, 2016, can be found here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText16/HouseText16/H7005A.pdf