Title 28
Labor and Labor Relations

Chapter 6
Wage Discrimination Based on Sex

R.I. Gen. Laws 28-6-18



 28-6-18.  Wage differentials based on protected characteristics prohibited. [Effective January 1, 2023.]


(a) No employer shall pay any of its employees at a wage rate less than the rate paid to employees of another race, or color, or religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age, or country of ancestral origin for comparable work, except where the employer meets the standards set forth in subsection (b) of this section.

(b) A wage differential is permitted when the employer demonstrates:

(1) The systems as referenced in this section are fair and are not being used as a pretext for an unlawful wage differential;

(2) The differential is based upon one or more of the following factors:

(i) A seniority system; provided, however, that time spent on leave due to a pregnancy-related condition or parental, family, and medical leave shall not reduce seniority;

(ii) A merit system;

(iii) A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production;

(iv) Geographic location when the locations correspond with different costs of living; provided, that no location within the state of Rhode Island will be considered to have a sufficiently different cost of living. This clause shall apply at the employer's discretion and for the limited purpose of determining wage differentials for employees;

(v) Reasonable shift differential, which is not based upon or derived from a differential in compensation based on characteristics identified in subsection (a) of this section;

(vi) Education, training, or experience to the extent such factors are job-related and consistent with a business necessity;

(vii) Work-related travel, if the travel is regular and a business necessity; or

(viii) A bona fide factor other than those characteristics identified by subsection (a) of this section that is not based upon or derived from a differential in compensation based on characteristics identified in subsection (a); that is job-related with respect to the position in question; and that is consistent with business necessity. This factor shall not apply if the employee demonstrates that an alternative business practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing the wage differential and that the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice. A cost prohibitive alternative business practice is not an alternative business practice under this section;

(3) The factor or factors relied upon must reasonably explain the differential; or

(4) Each factor is relied upon reasonably.

(c) An individual's wage history cannot, by itself, justify an otherwise unlawful wage differential.

(d) An employer who discriminates in violation of this section shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this section, reduce the wage rate of any employee.

(e) The agreement of an employee to work for less than the wage to which the employee is entitled under this chapter is not a defense to an action under this chapter; provided, however, in the event an employer provides health insurance or retirement benefits as a benefit to employees, a difference in such benefits due to an employee's decision, in writing, to decline such a benefit shall not be considered a violation of this section, as long as the employer provides equal access to such benefit.

(f) No employer shall prohibit an employee from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of such employee or another employee or retaliate against an employee who engages in such activities. No employer shall require an employee to enter into a waiver or other agreement that purports to deny an employee the right to disclose or discuss their wages. An employer shall not prohibit an employee from aiding or encouraging any other employee to exercise their rights under this subsection.

(1) Nothing in this subsection shall require an employee to disclose their wages.

(2) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the rights of an employee provided by any other provision of law or collective bargaining agreement.

(g) No employer shall discharge or in any other manner discriminate or retaliate against any applicant for employment or employee because the applicant or employee has opposed a practice made unlawful by this chapter or because the applicant or employee has made a charge or filed any complaint with the employer, the director of labor and training, or any other person, under or related to the provisions of this chapter; has instituted or caused to be instituted any investigation, proceeding, hearing, or any action under or related to the provisions of this chapter; has testified or is planning to testify; or has assisted or participated in any manner in any such investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the provisions of this chapter. No employer shall coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with any individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of their having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of their having aided or encouraged any other individual in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by the provisions of this chapter.

(h) Except as provided in this section, any provision in any contract entered into after the effective date of this chapter establishing a variation in rates of pay based on the characteristics identified by subsection (a) of this section shall be null and void.

(i) Every employer subject to this chapter shall post, in a conspicuous place or places on its premises, a notice to be prepared or approved by the director that shall set forth excerpts of this chapter and any other relevant information the director deems necessary to explain the provisions of this chapter to the employees of an employer. Any employer who or that does not comply with the provisions of this section shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).

History of Section.
P.L. 1946, ch. 1786, 2; G.L. 1956, 28-6-18; P.L. 1965, ch. 45, 1; P.L. 2021, ch. 168, 2, effective January 1, 2023; P.L. 2021, ch. 169, 2, effective January 1, 2023.