Report from Montpelier

By Rep. Joan Lenes

Joan Lenes
Joan Lenes

The House will have the earned sick leave bill, H.187, before us this week. Last year it passed the House and was sent to the Senate. The following outline is as passed by the Senate. This week our House Committee on General and Military Affairs will consider further amendments to the following Senate version. I imagine there will be changes. This is the current Senate outline of H.187, an act relating to absence from work for health care and safety, as described by the Vermont Main Street Alliance.

  • Employees in Vermont could earn up to a maximum of 24 hours (3 days) per year for the first two years after implementation. Following this two-year phase in, employees would gain access up to a ceiling of 40 hours (5 days) per year.
  • Employers may require a waiting period for new hires of 2080 hours or 1 year, whichever comes first. During this probationary period, employees would accrue, but not have access to earned time.
  • Temporary and seasonal employees are excluded from this legislation, defined as 20 weeks.
  • Part-time workers who work fewer than 18 hours per week are excluded.
  • New businesses will have a one-year grace period starting from the date of their first hire.
  • Employers that have five or fewer employees who are employed for an 
average of no less than 30 hours per week are not required to offer this benefit until January 1, 2018 and will be given assistance in the development and implementation of this policy.
  • Full and part-time employees must earn the equivalent of at least: 1 hour of paid time for every 52 hours worked.
  • Employees must be permitted to use this time to:
  • Recover from or receive treatment for an illness or injury, care for a family member when they are ill, obtain diagnostic, routine, preventive, or therapeutic health care, take necessary steps for their safety as a result of sexual abuse, domestic violence, or stalking.
  • All employers already offering equal or more generous paid time, combined time, paid sick time, or any type of paid leave that can be used for the purposes defined in the law (as listed above) would be unaffected. The law would NOT require a discrete paid sick time policy in addition to other paid time provided by the employer. Likewise, employers who aren’t currently meeting the minimum standard may meet the requirement with the same flexibility.
  • Employers’ own policies determine the time increments by which workers may use their sick time. For example, if an employer has a policy requiring workers to take at least half a day of time when they are absent, that policy stands for the purposes of this legislation.
  • Tipped employees would be compensated at no less than the minimum wage for non-tipped employees.
  • Employers may require employees to make reasonable efforts to find a replacement for planned absences and avoid scheduling routine or preventive health care during work hours.
  • If unused hours are carried over from a previous year, an employee may earn the balance between the unused portion and the maximum allowed.
  • Employers are not required to cash out unused paid sick time when an employee leaves the job.
  • The department of Labor and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development will conduct a survey of Vermont employers with five or fewer employees regarding the number of employees, the hourly wage, and the amount of time off provided.

I can be reached at jlenes@leg.state.vt.us, 802-999-9363 or by leaving a message with the Sergeant at Arms 1-800-322-5616. I am at Bruegger’s Bagel on Tuesday mornings 7:30-8:30.

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