Updated: 2020-06-22 by
You are entitled to be paid the minimum wage set by law in Rhode Island (unless you are exempt), and you have other work pay rights, too. No matter how you are paid, whether by hourly wage, salary, commissions, tips, or piece rate, the law in Rhode Island gives you certain rights. While your employer can pay you in a variety of ways, each manner of payment is regulated by federal law and the laws of some states. These regulations:
- guarantee minimum wage rates
- define commission pay
- set paycheck payment schedules, and
- establish the deadlines for paycheck payments in Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training explains the Rhode Island laws that regulate pay for work in Rhode Island.
When Am I Entitled to be Paid in Rhode Island?
The schedule of payment is set by state law. This U.S. Department of Labor State Payday Requirements chart sets out the payment schedule for each state. Check this chart for the paycheck payment schedule in Rhode Island.
Am I Entitled to Minimum Wage in Rhode Island?
To prevent employers from paying employees an unfairly low wage, the federal government sets a minimum wage rate. And, many states also set their own minimum wage rate. Unless you are exempt, you are entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage established in Rhode Island.
Not every state sets its own minimum wage—some simply apply the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. While some states even set the minimum wage lower than the federal minimum wage, the federal rate is the “floor." In other words, eligible employees may not be paid less than the federal minimum wage.
Most employees are eligible to be paid at least the minimum wage, but some are not. Employees who are not eligible to be paid the minimum wage are sometimes called “exempt” employees.
Eligibility Exception 1: Outside Salespeople and Employees Earning Commissions or Tips
If you earn more than half your earnings in commissions and your total pay is greater than one-and-a-half times the federal minimum hourly wage, you are exempt from the minimum wage. Likewise, if you are employed as an outside salesperson who works mainly away from your employer’s place of business, you are not entitled to minimum wage protections.
If you receive tips, you are also exempt from minimum wage laws but with certain conditions. See What Are My Rights to Tips?
Eligibility Exception 2: “White Collar” Employees
This exception covers executive, administrative, or professional employees, so it is sometimes called the “white-collar” exception. It applies to employees who are:
- paid a salary (as opposed to pay per hour worked) of at least $455 per week, and
- in executive, administrative, or professional positions.
Your primary duty determines whether or not you fall into one of the white-collar exceptions. The primary duty of an “executive” employee is management of the employer’s business, which must include regularly supervising two or more full-time employees. An executive employee also either has the authority to hire and fire other employees, or great weight is given to their recommendations on those decisions.
The primary duty of an “administrative” employee is office (that is, nonmanual) work directly related to management or business operations of the employer. An administrative employee exercises discretion and independent judgment about significant matters in the office.
The primary duty of a “professional” employee requires one of two accomplishments: 1) advanced knowledge (usually gained through lengthy formal education) in a field of science or learning, or 2) invention, imagination, originality, or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.
Eligibility Exception 3: Farm, Seasonal, Student, and Other Employees
People employed in certain other types of work are also exempt from minimum wage protections. These include farm workers, seasonal or recreational workers (such as ski lift operators), certified student workers, casual babysitters, and a few other categories.
Minimum wage law is complex and it can be difficult to determine if you are covered by it. You may want to talk to a wage and hour lawyer. To find a lawyer, go to How Can I Find a Wage and Hour Lawyer in Rhode Island?
What Are My Rights to Commissions
If you are employed in sales, you likely earn a commission (that is, a percentage of the price of goods or services sold). In order to be considered a true commission, your earnings must be based on the amount of your sales.
Most wage and hour issues for commissioned employees are covered by state law and differ from state to state. Check with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to see what regulations on commissions, if any, Rhode Island has enacted.
When Are Commissions Earned?
In general, the commission agreement between the employee and the employer will determine when commissions are earned. Check with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to see what regulations on commissions, if any, Rhode Island has enacted.
How Are Commission Advances Treated?
Your employer may pay you an advance (or “draw”) on commissions. This is a payment made to you to be charged against commissions you subsequently earn. If your commissions rarely exceed your advances, the employer’s commission formula may not be legitimate because your commissions should fluctuate based on your sales. Otherwise, the commission formula is more like regular pay, which could entitle you to minimum wage and overtime protections (see Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay in Rhode Island?).
Some states address commission advances in their wage and hour laws. Check with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to see what regulations on commissions, if any, Rhode Island has enacted.
How is Piecework Treated in Rhode Island?
If you are paid by the piece, you are still entitled to the minimum wage that applies to you in Rhode Island, unless you are an agricultural worker (in which case you may be exempt). To determine if you are being paid at least the applicable minimum wage, divide your total piece rate pay for any workweek by the total hours worked.
You are entitled to be paid your piece rate pay according to the applicable payday schedule for Rhode Island.
What Are My Employer's Obligations in Paying My Final Paycheck?
Federal law does not require any particular deadline for paying a final paycheck. But some states require employers to pay your final paycheck within a set number of days after termination or resignation. And, these deadlines often differ depending on whether you were fired or resigned.
If you leave your job for any reason in Rhode Island, whether by your own choice or your employer's action, your employer must pay your final paycheck on or before the next regular payday. If you lose your job as a result of your employer closing, merging, or moving its business out of state, your employer must pay your final paycheck within 24 hours of the time of your separation.
Regardless of any deadlines, your employer must pay you all wages you earned. If you believe a former employer has not paid you all wages you earned, see How Can I Find a Wage and Hour Lawyer in Rhode Island?
Your final paycheck must include pay for accrued vacation time in Rhode Island if:
- you worked for your employer for at least one year, and
- your employer awarded you vacation time under a written or oral contract (including a collective bargaining agreement), or
- your employer awarded you vacation time under written or oral policy.
You may also be interested in:
Learn about Rhode Island wage and hour laws, including minimum wage, tips, paycheck laws, and more.
Your entitlement to overtime pay depends on state law.
Learn about tip sharing, service charges, and more.