This month, the University modified its paid sick and safe leave policies to be in compliance with the Rhode Island Sick and Safe Leave Act, signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo last year and put into effect this summer. The Act applies to all Rhode Island employers with more than 18 employees. It requires Brown to expand “the amount of paid leave available to part-time and student employees and broaden the circumstances” for which leave-taking is permitted, The Herald previously reported. We are glad the University has quickly adjusted to new state policy and worked to enhance the benefits available to its employees.
Prior to the passage of the Rhode Island Sick and Safe Leave Act, the University’s paid leave policies applied only to employees who worked more than “50 percent time,” The Herald previously reported. In addition to covering part-time and student employees, the University’s new policies allow employees to take leave for caregiving responsibilities, which now include attending to safety issues such as stalking and sexual violence. By 2020, Rhode Island employees will have guaranteed access to up to 40 hours of leave. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training will begin penalizing employers for noncompliance starting Jan. 1, 2019.
In the United States, federal law does not require employers to provide paid sick leave. (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees, who can use the time for caregiving responsibilities and family members’ medical emergencies.) According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, 34 million Americans, close to one-third of all private sector employees, do not have paid sick leave. The lack of paid sick leave particularly harms survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault; the Centers for Disease Control found that a substantial number of American men and women have suffered some sort of abuse at the hands of intimate partners. In light of these circumstances, we are heartened by the decision to allow employees to address stalking and sexual violence.
Thankfully, the momentum in favor of paid sick leave has accelerated in recent years. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to mandate that private sector employers provide paid sick leave. This year, Maryland and New Jersey passed their own paid sick leave legislation. As of October 2018, 19 cities, three counties and 10 states in total — including Rhode Island — require employers to provide paid sick leave.
The University’s new policies will benefit its employees profoundly. On a fundamental level, no one should have to choose between working and caring for themselves or their loved ones. We are particularly supportive of the University’s decision to not require documentation for every instance of leave-taking, as many employees or students may not have the time or resources to fill out forms and collect signed letters. We hope that, in the coming years, the University continues to stay abreast of the law and update its policies to ensure that employees feel safe, healthy and supported in their work.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Anuj Krishnamurthy ’19, Rhaime Kim ’20, Grace Layer ’20, Mark Liang ’19 and Krista Stapleford ’21. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and op-eds to email@example.com.