TITLE 28
Labor and Labor Relations

CHAPTER 28-29
Workers' Compensation – General Provisions

SECTION 28-29-2


§ 28-29-2 Definitions.

In chapters 29 – 38 of this title, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Department" means the department of labor and training.

(2) "Director" means the director of labor and training or his or her designee unless specifically stated otherwise.

(3)(i) "Earnings capacity" means the weekly straight time earnings which an employee could receive if the employee accepted an actual offer of suitable alternative employment. Earnings capacity can also be established by the court based on evidence of ability to earn, including, but not limited to, a determination of the degree of functional impairment and/or disability, that an employee is capable of employment. The court may, in its discretion, take into consideration the performance of the employee's duty to actively seek employment in scheduling the implementation of the reduction. The employer need not identify particular employment before the court can direct an earnings capacity adjustment. In the event that an employee returns to light duty employment while partially disabled, an earnings capacity shall not be set based upon actual wages earned until the employee has successfully worked at light duty for a period of at least thirteen (13) weeks.

(ii) As used under the provisions of this title, "functional impairment" means an anatomical or functional abnormality existing after the date of maximum medical improvement as determined by a medically or scientifically demonstrable finding and based upon the Sixth (6th) edition of the American Medical Association's Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment or comparable publications of the American Medical Association.

(iii) In the event that an employee returns to employment at an average weekly wage equal to the employee's pre-injury earnings exclusive of overtime, the employee will be presumed to have regained his/her earning capacity.

(4) "Employee" means any person who has entered into the employment of or works under contract of service or apprenticeship with any employer, except that in the case of a city or town other than the city of Providence it shall only mean that class or those classes of employees as may be designated by a city, town, or regional school district in a manner provided in this chapter to receive compensation under chapters 29 – 38 of this title. Any person employed by the state of Rhode Island, except for sworn employees of the Rhode Island State Police, or by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation who is otherwise entitled to the benefits of chapter 19 of title 45 shall be subject to the provisions of chapters 29 – 38 of this title for all case management procedures and dispute resolution for all benefits. The term "employee" does not include any individual who is a shareholder or director in a corporation, general or limited partners in a general partnership, a registered limited liability partnership, a limited partnership, or partners in a registered limited liability limited partnership, or any individual who is a member in a limited liability company. These exclusions do not apply to shareholders, directors and members who have entered into the employment of or who work under a contract of service or apprenticeship within a corporation or a limited liability company. The term "employee" also does not include a sole proprietor, independent contractor, or a person whose employment is of a casual nature, and who is employed other than for the purpose of the employer's trade or business, or a person whose services are voluntary or who performs charitable acts, nor shall it include the members of the regularly organized fire and police departments of any town or city except for appeals from an order of the retirement board filed pursuant to the provisions of Rhode Island general law § 45-21.2-9; provided, however, that it shall include the members of the police and aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) units of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. Whenever a contractor has contracted with the state, a city, town, or regional school district any person employed by that contractor in work under contract shall not be deemed an employee of the state, city, town, or regional school district as the case may be. Any person who on or after January 1, 1999, was an employee and became a corporate officer shall remain an employee, for purposes of these chapters, unless and until coverage under this act is waived pursuant to subsection 28-29-8(b) or § 28-29-17. Any person who is appointed a corporate officer between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2001, and was not previously an employee of the corporation, will not be considered an employee, for purposes of these chapters, unless that corporate officer has filed a notice pursuant to subsection 28-29-19(b). In the case of a person whose services are voluntary or who performs charitable acts, any benefit received, in the form of monetary remuneration or otherwise, shall be reportable to the appropriate taxation authority but shall not be deemed to be wages earned under contract of hire for purposes of qualifying for benefits under chapters 29 – 38 of this title. Any reference to an employee who had been injured shall, where the employee is dead, include a reference to his or her dependents as defined in this section, or to his or her legal representatives, or, where he or she is a minor or incompetent, to his or her conservator or guardian. A "seasonal occupation" means those occupations in which work is performed on a seasonal basis of not more than sixteen (16) weeks.

(5) "Employer" includes any person, partnership, corporation, or voluntary association, and the legal representative of a deceased employer; it includes the state, and the city of Providence. It also includes each city, town, and regional school district in the state that votes or accepts the provisions of chapters 29 – 38 of this title in the manner provided in this chapter or is a party to an appeal from an order of the retirement board filed pursuant to the provisions of Rhode Island general law § 45-21.2-9.

(6) "General or special employer":

(i) "General employer" includes but is not limited to temporary help companies and employee leasing companies and means a person who for consideration and as the regular course of its business supplies an employee with or without vehicle to another person.

(ii) "Special employer" means a person who contracts for services with a general employer for the use of an employee, a vehicle, or both.

(iii) Whenever there is a general employer and special employer wherein the general employer supplies to the special employer an employee and the general employer pays or is obligated to pay the wages or salaries of the supplied employee, then, notwithstanding the fact that direction and control is in the special employer and not the general employer, the general employer, if it is subject to the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act or has accepted that Act, shall be deemed to be the employer as set forth in subdivision (5) of this section and both the general and special employer shall be the employer for purposes of §§ 28-29-17 and 28-29-18.

(iv) Effective January 1, 2003, whenever a general employer enters into a contract or arrangement with a special employer to supply an employee or employees for work, the special employer shall require an insurer generated insurance coverage certification, on a form prescribed by the department, demonstrating Rhode Island workers' compensation and employer's liability coverage evidencing that the general employer carries workers' compensation insurance with that insurer with no indebtedness for its employees for the term of the contract or arrangement. In the event that the special employer fails to obtain and maintain at policy renewal and thereafter this insurer generated insurance coverage certification demonstrating Rhode Island workers' compensation and employer's liability coverage from the general employer, the special employer is deemed to be the employer pursuant to the provisions of this section. Upon the cancellation or failure to renew, the insurer having written the workers' compensation and employer's liability policy shall notify the certificate holders and the department of the cancellation or failure to renew and upon notice, the certificate holders shall be deemed to be the employer for the term of the contract or arrangement unless or until a new certification is obtained.

(7)(i) "Injury" means and refers to personal injury to an employee arising out of and in the course of his or her employment, connected and referable to the employment.

(ii) An injury to an employee while voluntarily participating in a private, group, or employer-sponsored carpool, vanpool, commuter bus service, or other rideshare program, having as its sole purpose the mass transportation of employees to and from work shall not be deemed to have arisen out of and in the course of employment. Nothing in the foregoing provision shall be held to deny benefits under chapters 29 – 38 and chapter 47 of this title to employees such as drivers, mechanics, and others who receive remuneration for their participation in the rideshare program. Provided, that the foregoing provision shall not bar the right of an employee to recover against an employer and/or driver for tortious misconduct.

(8) "Maximum medical improvement" means a point in time when any medically determinable physical or mental impairment as a result of injury has become stable and when no further treatment is reasonably expected to materially improve the condition. Neither the need for future medical maintenance nor the possibility of improvement or deterioration resulting from the passage of time and not from the ordinary course of the disabling condition, nor the continuation of a pre-existing condition precludes a finding of maximum medical improvement. A finding of maximum medical improvement by the workers' compensation court may be reviewed only where it is established that an employee's condition has substantially deteriorated or improved.

(9) "Physician" means medical doctor, surgeon, dentist, licensed psychologist, chiropractor, osteopath, podiatrist, or optometrist, as the case may be.

(10) "Suitable alternative employment" means employment or an actual offer of employment which the employee is physically able to perform and will not exacerbate the employee's health condition and which bears a reasonable relationship to the employee's qualifications, background, education, and training. The employee's age alone shall not be considered in determining the suitableness of the alternative employment.

(11) "Independent contractor" means a person who has filed a notice of designation as independent contractor with the director pursuant to § 28-29-17.1 or as otherwise found by the workers' compensation court.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1912, ch. 831, art. 5, § 1; P.L. 1917, ch. 1534, § 5; P.L. 1920, ch. 1900, § 1; G.L. 1923, ch. 92, art. 8, § 1; G.L. 1938, ch. 300, art. 9, § 1; P.L. 1950, ch. 2627, § 1; P.L. 1954, ch. 3297, § 1; G.L. 1956, § 28-29-2; P.L. 1960, ch. 182, § 1; P.L. 1970, ch. 277, § 2; P.L. 1980, ch. 277, § 3; P.L. 1982, ch. 32, art. 1, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 142, art. 5, § 7; P.L. 1984 (s.s.), ch. 450, § 3; P.L. 1985, ch. 365, § 4; P.L. 1986, ch. 507, § 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 332, art. 1, § 1; P.L. 1991, ch. 206, § 1; P.L. 1992, ch. 31, § 2; P.L. 1994, ch. 101, § 2; P.L. 1994, ch. 401, § 2; P.L. 1995, ch. 44, § 1; P.L. 1995, ch. 315, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 32, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 105, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 404, § 1; P.L. 1999, ch. 216, § 5; P.L. 1999, ch. 384, § 5; P.L. 2000, ch. 491, § 1; P.L. 2001, ch. 256, § 1; P.L. 2001, ch. 355, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 65, art. 14, § 1; P.L. 2002, ch. 119, § 2; P.L. 2002, ch. 280, § 2; P.L. 2004, ch. 273, § 1; P.L. 2004, ch. 293, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 342, § 1; P.L. 2005, ch. 403, § 1; P.L. 2008, ch. 377, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 95, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 121, § 1; P.L. 2011, ch. 151, art. 12, § 3.)