Vermont governor to sign equal pay bill into law on Tuesday

by Sophie E. Zdatny

House Bill 99, titled “an act relating to equal pay,” has cleared both chambers of the Vermont Legislature and is set to be signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin on Tuesday, May 14.

The final bill amends Vermont’s Fair Employment Practices Act to provide that an employer may pay different wage rates to employees of different sexes only when the differential wages are based on (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system in which earnings are based on quality or quantity of production, or (4) a bona fide factor other than sex. Employers now will be required to show that any wage differential is based on a factor that “does not perpetuate a sex-based differential in compensation, is job-related with respect to the position in question, and is based upon a legitimate business consideration.”

Wage inquiries

Under the new law, employers may not require, as a condition of employment, that employees not disclose the amount of their wages to coworkers or inquire about or discuss other employees’ wages. An employer, however, may prohibit an HR manager from disclosing other employees’ wages. The new law wouldn’t require an employee to disclose the amount of her wages in response to an inquiry from a coworker.

Flexible working arrangements

The law also provides that employees may request flexible working arrangements, i.e., an intermediate or long-term change in their regular working arrangements. This may include changes in the number of days or hours worked, changes in the time the employee arrives at or leaves work, working from home, or job-sharing. It doesn’t include vacation, routine scheduling of shifts, or other forms of employee leave.

Employers are required to discuss their employees’ requests in good faith and may propose alternative arrangements during the talks. Employers are required to consider requests that wouldn’t be inconsistent with their business operations or their legal or contractual obligations. The term “inconsistent with business operations” includes the imposition of additional costs on the employer, a detrimental effect on employee morale in the aggregate, a negative impact on the employer’s ability to meet consumer demand, an inability to reorganize work among existing staff or recruit additional staff, a detrimental impact on business quality or business performance, a lack of work during the periods the employee proposes to work, and planned structural changes to the business.

Paid leave study

Finally, under the new law, a committee will be created to study the issue in Vermont and make recommendations about whether and how paid family leave may benefit the state’s citizens. Its report is due by January 15, 2014, in time for next year’s legislative session.

A more detailed look at the new law and other employment-related legislation from this session will be provided in the June edition of Vermont Employment Law Letter.

Sophie E. Zdatny is a lawyer in the Employment Practice Group at Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C., in Burlington and is one of the editors of Vermont Employment Law Letter. She may be reached at szdatny@dinse.com.

About Vermont Employment Law Letter:
Vermont Employment Law Letter is written by attorneys at the law firm of Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C. Vermont Employment Law Letter does not attempt to offer solutions to specific problems, but rather to provide information about current developments in Vermont and federal employment law. Inquiries about specific problems should be addressed to the labor or employment law attorney of your choice. Vermont does not certify lawyers as specialists in labor and employment law or other areas of concentration. Contact attorneys at Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew, P.C.
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