In March 2016, Vermont became the fifth US state to pass sick leave regulations.
Beginning in January 2017, employers enacted the Vermont Sick Leave Law. It requires all employers to let employees accumulate and utilize 24 hours or three days of sick time in one year. In January 2019, the State of Vermont increased this requirement to 40 hours or five days for the same 12-month period.
Every employee shall earn discretionary time they may use to take time off from work. A minimum of one hour of paid sick time shall accrue for every 52 completed working hours.
Regardless of an employer’s primary business location, employees are eligible to accrue and use earned sick time if their place of employment is in Vermont. Once determined to be qualified, an employee’s working hours should count toward the accumulation of earned sick time.
If the eligible employee transfers to another state but continues to work for the same employer, they will no longer accrue earned sick time. However, they should be permitted to use any sick time already earned.
The State of Vermont defines employees as individuals who have worked an average of at least 18 hours per week for 12 months.
The word “employee” shall not apply to the following:
- Federal employees
- Persons who have only worked 20 weeks or less in a 12-month period
- Individuals working on a job that only lasts 20 weeks
- State of Vermont employees who are exempted or excluded from State-classified service, except for those employed temporarily
- Temporary workers in health care and nursing home facilities or per diem health care workers
- Short-term substitute teachers or educators
- Underage individuals
- Sole proprietors or partner owners of unincorporated businesses
- Managers, executive officers, and limited liability company (LLC) or corporation members excluded from employer’s liability and worker’s compensation policies under the Vermont Labor Laws
- Individuals working intermittently or per diem employees
- Employees who decide on their work schedule
- Employees who are not obliged to work
- Employees who do not expect continued employment with an employer
Vermont Sick Leave Law: Permitted Uses
An employee’s earned sick time does not have to be automatically used if they miss working for the reasons listed below. The employer may not pay for the employee’s absence if both parties agree to any of the following:
- The employee will work the same number of hours during the same pay period.
- The employee will trade hours with another employee to compensate for their absence.
If the reason falls within this list, an employer can adopt a separate policy requiring the mandatory use of earned sick time.
A worker who has earned sick time can use it for:
- Health care problems;
- Medical diagnosis, preventative medical care, therapeutic medical treatment, or routine medical treatment;
- Taking care of a sick family member and assisting them with receiving medical care;
- Accompanying a spouse, parent, grandparent, or an in-law to health care appointments related to the person’s long-term care;
- Providing social or legal services, medical care, or counseling to an employee or an employee’s parent, grandparent, spouse, child, or sibling who is a victim of or is relocating due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; and,
- Attending to a family member whose school or place of work is closed due to public health or safety reasons and concerns.
Discretionary One-Year Waiting Period
The State of Vermont allows employers to require new employees to work for at least one year before using their earned sick leave time.
Suppose an employer dismisses an employee, or the employee undergoes voluntary separation after the one-year discretionary waiting period. If the same employer rehires the employee within 12 months, the former should allow the latter to accrue and use sick time immediately.
However, the employee can only keep the earned sick time accrued before their previous dismissal if the employer allows it.
Incremental Use of Earned Sick Time
Suppose an employee is absent for a period that is less than a typical workday. The employer should permit employees to use their earned sick time in the smallest increments. That is, in the manner that the employer’s payroll system or paid time off policy allows.
Employee Notice of Use
In addition, employers may ask employees who intend to use paid sick leave to avoid scheduling routine or preventative care during normal work hours.
Employees should notify their employer in advance about any intentions of using paid sick leave and the anticipated duration of their absence.
Employers can limit the number of hours full-time employees can work each week. That is if they aren’t subject to the overtime rules of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Nevertheless, such employees can still accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick time.
At the end of an annual period, employers must allow employees to carry over any unused sick time to the next annual period. The employee shall continue to earn the same. However, employees may only use the paid sick leave their employer allowed for one year.
If an employer decides to pay for employees’ unused sick time, the paid sick time will not carry over to the next annual period.
For employees undergoing dismissal or voluntary separation from work, payment of unused earned sick time is discretionary. Employees are not entitled to receive such payment unless the employer agrees.
Earned sick time must be paid at a rate equal to the employee’s normal hourly wage rate or the minimum wage rate, whichever is higher. Employers must pay sick leave allowances at the same time as regular wages and in the same paycheck.
An employer cannot interrupt insurance benefits while employees take advantage of paid sick leave policies. Furthermore, insurance benefits should stay at the same level and under the same conditions as normal working conditions.
Initially, companies categorized as small employers during the previous calendar year were exempted from these provisions. The Vermont Department of Labor defined small employers as companies with five or fewer employees working an average of 30 hours or more per week. However, the state only enacted the exemption until the first day of January 2018.
Current leave policies only exempt new employers from these provisions for one year after hiring their first employee.
For this exemption to be recognized, the concerned employer must prove the date of the last exemption and the date of the first hire. No more than one year should have elapsed between these dates. The provisions only tend to employee disputes about ungranted sick leave after this one-year allowance.