The Vermont sexual discrimination law in the workplace can be found under the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act which prohibits employers from discriminating against its employers on the basis of sex.
This law defines “employer” as anyone who has one or more employees in the state. The employers do not have to be within Vermont as long as they have employees within the state. This differs from the federal law because Title VII only refers to employers who have fifteen or more employees. “Employees” under the law are those who are gainfully employed by an employer as defined above.
There are several areas of discrimination covered under this law. First of all job conditions, hiring and firing cannot be determined using an employee’s gender as a basis for these decisions. Furthermore, unequal pay is also illegal: employers of Vermont employees cannot pay a person of one sex less than that of someone of another sex because of gender when the jobs require equal levels of skill, effort and conditions. Additionally, sexual harassment falls under sexual discrimination when such conduct relates to condition of employment or creates hostile working environments.
Two different agencies investigate claims in Vermont: Private employees go through the Civil Rights Division of the Attorney General’s Office and state employees go through the Vermont Human Rights Commission.
Private employees can file claims against their employers by contacting the Civil Rights Division within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act. You’ll need to fill out their Employment Questionnaire which you can get from the Division or online. After they receive your questionnaire, a Division staff member will draft a formal complaint which you’ll need to have notarized. The Division will then send the complaint to your employer and give him or her a chance to respond to the claim. Both of you will be asked to participate in mediation at this point.
If mediation doesn’t work, an investigator will begin gathering further information about the claim and will then make either a reasonable cause or no reasonable cause decision. If the investigator finds reasonable cause to believe that your rights have been violated, you and your employer will once again enter a settlement phase. If this still is unsuccessful, the Attorney General might file the complaint in state court.
If you want to go through the federal courts instead of the Division, you’ll have to first request a “Right to Sue” letter from the EEOC. However, in Vermont you can go directly to the state courts without first contacting the Division. You’ll want to contact a lawyer to find out which option is best for your case.
State employees must go through the Vermont Human Rights Commission. To file a claim, you must contact the Commission within one year of the incident. You’ll be asked to describe the incident and a Commission staff member will prepare a formal complaint. The Commission will then send the complaint to your employer. After that, an investigator will gather information and prepare an Investigative Report. This report will be sent to the Commissioners and you and your employer will both be able to present your case during a Commission meeting. The Commission will then decide if there is reasonable cause to believe that your rights have been violated. Cases that have reasonable cause will enter a settlement process. If it’s not settled in six months, the Commission can decide whether to close the case or take it to court.
Both employers and employees need to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual discrimination in the workplace. Furthermore, all employers should have a current Vermont Complete Labor Law Poster posted in the workplace.