A new law enacted in Vermont late last month extends employment protections to victims of crime, specifically targeting victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The law, which goes into effect on July 1, makes employees who become victims of crimes a protected class and outlaws discrimination and retaliation against these employees, Jackson Lewis attorneys Martha Van Oot and Samuel V. Maxwell explain at Lexology:
In addition, the new law carves out circumstances upon which “crime victims” are allowed to take unpaid leave from employment. These circumstances … include allowing the employee to attend:
- A deposition or other court proceeding relating to a criminal proceeding where the employee is a “victim” and the employee has a right or obligation to appear at the proceeding;
- A relief from abuse hearing pursuant to 15 V.S.A. §1103 [a state domestic relations abuse prevention law] when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff;
- A hearing concerning an order against stalking or sexual assault when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff; or
- A hearing seeking relief from abuse, neglect, or exploitation when the employee seeks relief as the plaintiff.
The statute allows the employee to use accrued sick, vacation, or any other accrued paid leave in lieu of taking unpaid leave.
In this regard, Vermont’s law is similar to laws recently passed in other states and jurisdictions giving employees a right to use their paid sick leave as “safe leave” for court dates, counseling, or other matters related to addressing or protecting themselves from domestic violence. New York City amended its paid sick leave mandate to that effect last year, while Maryland and New Jersey included safe leave provisions in their new sick leave laws. California, Washington, and Minnesota also give employees the right to use their paid sick leave for these purposes, as do the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario. The only country that has a statutory safe leave entitlement at the national level is the Philippines, where it is spottily enforced, but Australian lawmakers are proposing to enact one as well.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott on Wednesday signed a bill into law that will grant individuals working remotely for an out-of-state organization up to $10,000 to move there, as part of a suite of initiatives to improve the environment for digital work in the Green Mountain State and attract more residents.
The grant program, slated to begin next year, will be open to any full-time employee of a business domiciled outside Vermont who primarily works remotely from home or a coworking space, and will offer such workers up to $5,000 per year up to a total of $10,000 over the life of the program. These funds can be used to cover a range of expenses associated with moving to Vermont and setting up a remote work presence there, including relocation costs, computer software and hardware, broadband Internet access, and membership in a coworking space. The bill provides enough funding to cover as many as hundreds of these grants over the coming years, depending on the size of each grant, which would represent a significant number of new residents for a state with just under 624,000 people.
The law also instructs several state agencies to identify infrastructure improvements to better enable workers and businesses to establish a remote presence in Vermont, and to encourage the growth of coworking spaces, remote work hubs, maker spaces, and similar innovative work spaces. The state will also examine the potential for developing public-private digital work sites that will be available to both state employees and remote workers in the private sector. Finally, the law instructs agencies to submit recommendations for ensuring that broadband access is available in the downtown areas of Vermont’s municipalities to support these types of remote work venues.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed legislation on May 11 that will bar employers from asking job candidates about their salary histories during the recruiting process, Littler Mendelson attorney Joseph A. Lazazzero reports at Lexology:
The new law, H. 294, effective July 1, 2018, prohibits asking a prospective, current, or former employee about or seeking information regarding his or her compensation history. For these purposes, compensation includes base compensation, bonuses, benefits, fringe benefits, and equity-based compensation. Under the new law, employers are also prohibited from requiring that a prospective employee’s current or past compensation satisfy minimum or maximum criteria for employment. If an employer discovers a prospective employee’s salary history, the employer may not determine whether to interview the prospective employee based on this information.
Like similar prohibitions in other states, Vermont’s new law still allows employers to confirm a candidate’s past pay if the candidate discloses it voluntarily, as well as to ask about candidates’ salary expectations. When the bill was introduced in the state legislature in January, its sponsors told Vermont Public Radio that it would help close the state’s gender pay gap, which stands at around 16 percent for full-time workers. The original bill also instructed the Vermont Department of Labor to collect new data on gender pay disparities in the state, VPR reported at the time, but this provision does not appear in the final bill signed by Scott last week.
Medical or recreational marijuana use is being decriminalized or legalized in a growing number of US states. In 2016, voters in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed referenda legalizing the recreational use of the drug, while Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota either introduced or expanded policies legalizing it for medical purposes.
Last week, Vermont became the first state to legalize the possession and consumption of recreational marijuana through the legislative process, though the commercial sale of the drug remains prohibited (residents are allowed to grow up to six plants for personal use). At Lexology, Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease attorney Michael C. Griffaton notes that Vermont’s law, which comes into effect July 1, does not require employers to permit the use of marijuana in the workplace or on their premises and “does not create a cause of action against an employer that discharges an employee for violating a policy that restricts or prohibits the use of marijuana.”
New Jersey may follow in Vermont’s footsteps this year. The Garden State has had a medical marijuana law on the books since 2010, but former governor Chris Christie, a staunch opponent of legalization who came into office shortly after that law was passed, took action to limit its applicability, such as tightening restrictions on what medical conditions qualified for a medical marijuana prescription. Newly-elected governor Phil Murphy, who campaigned on a promise to liberalize the state’s marijuana policies, took the first step in that direction last week with an executive order aimed at easing the regulations imposed by his predecessor, the New York Times reported.
Murphy has indicated that he is in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana as well, which he believes would help combat the ills of mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system. Earlier this month, New Jersey Senator Nicholas Scutari introduced a bill in the state Senate that would legalize the possession and personal use of limited amounts of marijuana and establish a regulatory body to control its legal sale and taxation in the state. The bill also addresses employers’ concerns about marijuana use in the workplace, attorneys from the law firm Porzio Bromberg & Newman explain at Lexology: