Vermont Crime Victims Leave Law About to Debut

BY MARTI CARDI, VP-PRODUCT COMPLIANCE 

Many states require employers to allow employees to take time off from work for court proceedings in which they are a victim or witness.  Most of these laws are very general and do not provide duration, notice or documentation requirements, or other parameters that are the hallmarks of what we normally think of as “leave of absence” laws.  Indeed, they are more correctly considered “nondiscrimination” laws, with court appearances as the protected classification.  Just as you can’t terminate someone because of age, race, gender, disability and so on, you can’t terminate an employee for absences due to court attendance or related matters as a crime victim.

Vermont has passed a new law that adds crime victims as a protected status under the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act.  It provides a little more substance to the employees’ rights than many typical crime victims’ laws but, in our opinion, it is still primarily a nondiscrimination statute.

The new law allows employees who are crime victims to take unpaid leave only, to attend a deposition or court proceeding related to:

  • Certain criminal proceedings (the covered crimes are defined by the statute and range from
    things like sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking to murder);
  • Relief from abuse hearings; order against stalking or sexual assault hearings; or
  • Relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult hearings.

Key provisions:

  • All employers are covered and required to comply.
  • The employee may choose to use accrued sick leave, vacation, or any other accrued paid
    leave to receive pay during the leave.
  • The employer must continue employment benefits for the duration of the leave at the
    level and under the conditions provided during employment.
  • The employer must post in each workplace a notice of the provisions of the law. The
    Vermont Commissioner of Labor will provide a form notice for this purpose, which should
    be accessible here once available.
  • The employee is entitled to job restoration to the same or comparable job at the same level of
    compensation, employment benefits, seniority, or any other term or condition of the
    employment existing on the day leave began.

Not a “domestic violence” leave law.  Many states have laws that specifically provide leave of absence and job protections for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.  These laws provide broader job-protected leave for reasons such as seeking medical attention, counseling or safe living arrangements, as well as attending related court proceedings.  This Vermont law does not go so far, allowing job-protected time off only for depositions and court proceedings.

Who is accountable? Matrix typically does not administer this type of law (one that is primarily a nondiscrimination law). Why? There is nothing to track or assess; no employee eligibility rules, no limits on amount of time of available, no documentation requirements, etc. In the case of this particular Vermont law, the actions required are strictly within the province of the employer: posting the required notice, allowing the use of vacation pay, managing continuation of benefits, ensuring job protection, and so on. However, it’s on our Matrix Radar, and we believe it’s important to provide clients and readers with relevant information on laws impacting our industry and your employees.

The law goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

MATRIX CAN HELP!  Matrix provides leave, disability, and accommodation management services to employers seeking a comprehensive and compliant solution to these complex employer obligations. We monitor the many leave laws being passed around the country and specialize in understanding how they work together. For leave management and accommodation assistance, contact us at ping@matrixcos.com.

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