Under The Dome 4/29/2024

    April 29, 2024

    Last Week At the State House


    The Senate Labor Committee passed two bills of particular note, sending them to the Senate floor for a vote Tuesday, April 30th.


    S.2123 SubA, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages, was amended by the committee. Today employers must include with wage payments, an account of the hours worked, deductions from gross earnings and an explanation of those deductions. This legislation adds: the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis; the amount and purpose of each itemized deduction in understandable language; net wages earned; the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid; the name of the employee and the last four digits of the employee's social security number or an employee identification number, other than a social security number; the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer; and all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked, at each hourly rate by the employee. The amended bill (S.2123 SubA) still includes the requirement to provide employees a type of “mini employee handbook” in English. The reference to the employee’s primary language was removed by the committee. The information includes items such as: wage information, benefits, holiday information, sick time, and travel and expense policies, hourly employee status or exempt status. The bill, as written, would become effective upon passage.


    S.2473 SubA, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Workplace Psychological Safety Act was also amended slightly. The bill begins by stating that employees have a right to a physically safe work environment and to a psychologically safe workplace. Employers have a “general duty” to provide a work environment free from all forms of psychological abuse and to ensure that all employees are treated respectfully and with dignity. “Psychological abuse” is defined as “mentally provocative harassment. Mistreatment that has the effect of hurting, weakening, confusing, or frightening a person mentally or emotionally.” The bill was amended by changing the definition of “Bullying” to include only employer-to employee” abuse. However, the SubA still includes language prohibiting employees to engage in psychological abuse with other employees, and then holding the employer liable for allowing psychological abuse to occur in the workplace. Within six months of enactment, the bill currently states all employers must adopt policy procedures to comply with the law and to train managers and supervisors to handle complaints. The SubA changes the complaint process for employees. Employees of public entities file with the Department of Labor and Training. Employees of private employers file in Superior Court. Penalties still include economic, compensatory and punitive damages. A person who experiences psychological abuse may present a case using direct and circumstantial evidence, and if successful may request public notification of the case outcome without disclosing the plaintiff’s name. The SubA can be viewed at: https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText24/SenateText24/S2473A.pdf



    This Week At the State House


    Tuesday, April 30th


    Both the Senate Rules Committee and the House Committee on State Government & Elections are scheduled to vote on bills (S.2727 and H.7759) that require the department of transportation to prepare a monthly "Washington Bridge snapshot report." This report would contain information on the progress of repairs and other actions (including travel times) pertaining to the Washington Bridge. This information would be public via posting on the legislative website. https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/Proposed24/S2727A.pdf https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/Proposed24/H7759A.pdf


    Wednesday, May 1st


    S.2535 is scheduled for a committee vote on Wednesday. The bill requires businesses located within an Environmental Justice Zone to complete a Cumulative Impact Analysis (CIA) and submit it with an application for a new permit or a permit renewal. The CIA requires the applicant to consider past, present and future impacts that derive directly from the applicant’s activities as well as the activities of those entities around them. It is meant to help the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) make emission decisions. It is a complex program and detail intense. However, because DEM is the only agency with all the information needed to complete the analysis (data related to other entities in the area), an applicant may be unable to meet the requirement and all permits, and permit renewals would presumably be rejected if the data cannot be obtained. There are businesses that operate in what may now be considered an Environmental Justice Zone that provide extremely important products and services to Rhode Islanders and to the economy. https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/SenateText24/S2535.pdf


    Thursday, May 2nd


    Taxes are the topic of the day in the House Finance Committee on Thursday. This is a hearing with acceptance of public testimony.


    H.7338, An Act Relating to Taxation – Personal Income Tax, imposes a Rhode Island personal income surtax of three percent (3%) on taxable income over $1,000,000, with the existing three-bracket personal income tax structure remaining in place. This surtax would be imposed on taxable income after all modifications, standard deductions, and exemptions have been applied; and would apply to tax years ending December 31, 2025 and beyond. The additional revenue would be placed in a restricted receipt account to be used for child care, public education, roads and bridges and public transportation. The language in the bill calls this program a “Surtax on millionaires.” https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/HouseText24/H7338.pdf


    H.7489, An Act Relating to Taxation – Business Corporations Tax, reduces the corporate minimum tax from $400 to $350 starting in tax year 2025. This proposal is identical to the Governor’s proposal in his budget. According to the House Fiscal Staff, the proposed change is expected to impact nearly 77,000 entities. The FY 2025 recommendation lowers revenues by $2.3 million to account for a half year impact; annualized the loss would be $4.7 million. https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/HouseText24/H7489.pdf


    H.7928, An Act Relating to Taxation - Business Corporations Tax, repeals the minimum corporate tax in its entirety immediately upon passage. Using the estimated tax impact of a $50 decrease in the Corporate Minimum Tax of $4.7 million, the impact of a repeal of the tax would be about $37.6 million annualized. https://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText24/HouseText24/H7928.pdf



    Federal Department of Labor Announces Change in the Overtime Rule

    (Below is the DOL’s press release announcing the change in rule)


    Rule ensures salaried workers making less than $58,656 receive fair pay for long hours WASHINGTON – The Biden-Harris administration today announced a final rule that expands overtime protections for millions of the nation’s lower-paid salaried workers by increasing the salary thresholds required to exempt a salaried bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee from federal overtime pay requirements.

    Effective July 1, 2024, the salary threshold will increase to the equivalent of an annual salary of $43,888 and increase to $58,656 on Jan. 1, 2025. The July 1 increase updates the present annual salary threshold of $35,568 based on the methodology used by the prior administration in the 2019 overtime rule update. On Jan. 1, 2025, the rule’s new methodology takes effect, resulting in the additional increase. In addition, the rule will adjust the threshold for highly compensated employees. Starting July 1, 2027, salary thresholds will update every three years, by applying up-to-date wage data to determine new salary levels.

    “This rule will restore the promise to workers that if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid more for that time,” said Acting Secretary Julie Su. “Too often, lower-paid salaried workers are doing the same job as their hourly counterparts but are spending more time away from their families for no additional pay. That is unacceptable. The Biden-Harris administration is following through on our promise to raise the bar for workers who help lay the foundation for our economic prosperity.”

    The department conducted extensive engagement with employers, workers, unions and other stakeholders before issuing its proposed rule in September 2023, and considered more than 33,000 comments in developing its final rule. The updated rule defines and delimits who is a bona fide executive, administrative and professional employee exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime protections.

    “The Department of Labor is ensuring that lower-paid salaried workers receive their hard-earned pay or get much-deserved time back with their families,” said Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “This rule establishes clear, predictable guidance for employers on how to pay employees for overtime hours and provides more economic security to the millions of people working long hours without overtime pay.”

    Key provisions of the final rule include the following:

    · Expanding overtime protections to lower-paid salaried workers.

    · Giving more workers pay or valuable time back with their family: By better identifying which employees are executive, administrative or professional employees who should be overtime exempt, the final rule ensures that those employees who are not exempt receive time-and-a-half pay when working more than 40 hours in a week or gain more time with their families.

    · Providing for regular updates to ensure predictability. The rule establishes regular updates to the salary thresholds every three years to reflect changes in earnings. This protects future erosion of overtime protections so that they do not become less effective over time.

    The rule’s effective date is July 1, 2024. Learn more about the department’s efforts to restore and extend overtime protections.

    Agency Wage and Hour Division

    Date April 23, 2024

    Release Number 24-717-NAT




    The following new bill was filed last week:

    House Bill No. 8208 Slater, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES -- ORDINANCES (Allows town and city councils to impose penalties for the violation of ordinances and regulations not exceeding the amount of one thousand dollars ($1,000).) http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/BillText/BillText24/HouseText24/H8208.pdf