Vermont Legislature Considers Expanding Paid Leave

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The Vermont House of Representatives recently introduced H66, a bill that would create a twelve week per year fully paid family medical leave insurance program.

Leave is broadly defined to cover bereavement leave, family and medical leave, and safe leave (related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking). Family members that you could take leave for is broadly defined to include biological, adopted, foster children, step children, spouse, civil union or domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or “any other individual with whom the qualified individual has a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship, regardless of biological or legal relationship.”

The bill establishes a special fund for the payment of benefits, and costs incurred to administer the fund. Leave is paid for through payroll contributions from employees and employers, and self-employed individuals. The employee receives 100% of their average weekly earnings, or the state average weekly wage, whichever is less. The bill appropriates $20 million as an advance payment to the fund. The bill would apply to any small employer who employs one or more individuals in Vermont.

Along with the overall fiscal impact on our client businesses, the bill would create additional administrative work for human resource departments, and the leaders of small companies that do not employ human resource professionals.  On the legal side, we are concerned about the bill’s creation of a cause of action for retaliation against employers (including compensatory and punitive damages, and attorney’s fees). We will watch this bill closely, and keep you posted.