A free half-day conference in Montpelier, Vermont on Monday, April 28 will help women identify and secure their employee benefits – and help employers learn more about benefits compliance.
The free seminar, “Healthy, Wealth and Wise?” is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The event, scheduled from 8:30 am to 1 pm at the Capitol Plaza Hotel and Conference Center on State Street, will demystify retirement benefits, healthcare and pension rights for female workers.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women’s lives are often impacted by events such as job loss, illness, widowhood, divorce, pregnancy, single parenthood, caring for an elderly parent, starting a first job and retirement. While a number of laws protect women’s rights, they are administered by different agencies of the government. Obtaining needed information and assistance can be challenging and confusing, for both employers and employees.
“Healthy, Wealthy and Wise?” seeks to minimize such difficulties by being a ‘one stop’ information source for service providers to women. Experts will discuss real-life stories of how women are impacted by health care, retirement savings and employment issues.
Attendees will receive comprehensive information on those topics, and resource materials on services available to help Vermont’s women address health, financial security and workplace challenges.
The conference is designed for community workers, case managers, human resource professionals, counselors, Employee Assistance Program specialists, health care providers and advocates, legal advocates, faith community representatives, state and local agencies, labor union staff, legislators and their staff, and other concerned women and men.
It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.
Participating conference partners include: the University of Massachusetts Gerontology Institute, the Vermont Department of Labor, the Vermont Commission on Women, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Works for Women, the Vermont Department of Health, the Vermont Small Business Development Center.
Other participants include the Vermont Business and Professional Women, the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Central Vermont Community Action Council, the Vermont Alliance of Non-Profit Organizations, JSI Research and Training Institute, Northeastern Vermont Area Health Education Center and the Vermont Women’s Business Center.
This event builds on the EBSA’s recent pro-active efforts in assisting employers, especially small employers, in offering benefits to workers. This is a marked contrast to the EBSA’s former emphasis on punishing wrongdoers.
On April 8, 2008 the U.S. Department of Labor introduced an online video to help small employers select retirement options for workers.
The video helps employers, managers and accountants understand the different options available for small companies to provide retirement programs to workers.
“Choosing a Retirement Solution for Your Small Business” introduces employers to the three most popular retirement arrangements in a brief, user-friendly video format.
The video portrays real-life experiences of four small employers with different retirement options. The employers depicted operate simplified employee pension (SEP), savings incentive match plan for employees individual retirement arrangement (SIMPLE IRA) and 401(k) plans.
The video focuses on the ease in setting up a retirement program appropriate for small business owners as well as the advantages of sponsoring a retirement plan, including tax breaks.
In late February, the U.S. Department of Labor unveiled a new online resource to help American employees chart their retirement finances.
This is a great tool for employers to make workers aware of. It will assist workers of all ages in planning for retirement.
The tool is aimed at helping workers who are 10 to 15 years away from retirement to prepare for financial security after they quit working.
“Americans are living longer, healthier lives and need to plan for their retirement,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “These interactive worksheets will give workers and their families a better perspective on how much they need to save to ensure that they can realize their retirement dreams.”
The website builds on a 2006 US DOL publication, “Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning.” That booklet used worksheets to help workers calculate income and savings, as well as expected expenses, during their retirement years.
Federal law requires that every employee must be given a Vermont W-2 form by January 31, 2007. If you are an employer, this is a great time to check that all of your employees have received their W-2 form. This form contains some information vital for filing tax returns, such as total wages earned, amount of state and federal taxes withheld, payments to a health care plan, FICA and other deductions.
Until a few years ago, not having a W-2 form was not much of a problem. An employee could simply attach a paycheck stub with his tax return and that would suffice. But things have changed now. The employers who fail to give their employees their W-2s are taken to task, and so are the employees who do not have them. The employer would have to do extra paperwork to explain the absence of a W-2 form. A missing W-2 can also result in a delay in filing your returns. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine.
Most employers mail W-2 forms to their employees. Some distribute them with paychecks. Often, those who give the forms with the paycheck, use mail to send them to former employees. But sometimes, the employee does not get the form in time, or does not receive one at all.
Since the employers are required by law to give the W-2 forms, they usually take every care that the employees get them. Problems arise when the address they have is not correct. Sometimes, an employee moves to a new home and fails to provide the employer the new address. At other times, the new address information is lost during processing. This can occur whether the employer processes payroll in-house or outsourcers it.
If an employee does not receive a W-2 form on time, he or she should request a duplicate from the employer.
All citizens should be afforded equal opportunities, especially when it comes to employment. You should not be segregated, separated or otherwise discriminated against because of certain characteristics. You should be free to work in a place that you will not be harassed or made to feel intimidated. There are both federal and state laws that employers are expected to follow in their employment practices. Along with the federal EEOC, most states have a specific department or agency dedicated to the education, regulation and enforcement of such laws. The state agency in Vermont is the Civil Rights Unit of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office or CRU.
Vermont (VT) job discrimination law in the workplace make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, place of birth, age (age 18 and over), handicap (disability) and HIV status. The state offers broader protection to the disabled than the federal statutes because it determines whether a disabled employee is eligible for legal protection without considering the mitigating measures taken by that employee to address his or her disability. The State anti-discrimination laws also apply to all employers regardless of size. The federal statutes do not apply to employers with less than 15 employees.
If you feel your rights under Vermont (VT) job discrimination law in the workplace, or if you are employed in a location with more than 15 employees and you feel your federal rights have been compromised or violated in any way you may file a complaint with the CRU. You have 300 days from the last date of the instance to take action. Since the state and federal agencies have a work sharing agreement, filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency.
I find that the laws regarding the lunches and breaks employees may take is a subject of great interest to many people. My research shows that Vermont is one of a number of states with a specific law that covers this topic.
Vermont state law mandates that “a reasonable opportunity” to eat a meal must be provided to all employees. This meal break may be unpaid if it is at least 30 minutes long, but only if the employee is completely relieved of his or her duties. If the worker must do any job duties during the meal break, it would not qualify as an unpaid meal break.
Vermont law does not provide specifically for any other rest breaks. However, if employers do choose to offer them, they must be paid if they are under 30 minutes long.
There are some interesting work hour issues found in federal law related to sleep time, waiting time, and travel time that Vermont residents may want to be informed about.
Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the circumstances. If an employee is allowed to do something of personal choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. Alternately, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.
Sleeping time is an issue that often arises in jobs where very long shifts are required. An employee required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is allowed to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.
Finally, we can consider the issue of travel time. The usual rule is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.
A thorough presentation of state and federal laws related to lunches and breaks may be found on the Vermont Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also presents required notices for all areas of both state and federal labor laws.
I found that Vermont has a unique law that governs the reinstatement of employees into their former positions prior to becoming inured on the job. This law is called the Vermont Employer’s/Employee’s Reinstatement Liability and compliance is required under the law.
Basically, the law states that if there is an employer that regularly employs ten or more employees, the employer could be obligated to rehire a worker after the workers has suffered a work-related injury. This action is put into effect as long as the following four conditions are met:
1. The worker must recover from the injury within two years of the date of the injury.
2. The worker is required to keep the employer informed as to his or her interest in rejoining the organization. The employee must also communicate his or her current address with the employer.
3. The worker must have intended to continue to work for the employer when the injury occurred. For example, the employee could not have just handed in his or her letter of resignation prior to becoming injured.
4. The worker must be physically able to perform his or her job if the job is still available. If the job is no longer available, then the worker must be able to perform the functions of an alternative job.
If the worker is reinstated into his prior job or into an alternative job, the employee must receive all benefits up to the date of the injury, including seniority and accrued time off. However, seniority and vacation time will not be accrued during the time of the disability.
It is important to understand that an employee can only be reinstated if a job is available. Thus, the employer is no obligated to create a job for the returning employee or to lay off a current employee so that the returning employee can have a position with the organization.