and hard work..."
- L.D., Portland.
More than 100 countries in the world, and a handful of states in the United States provide some amount of paid leave for employees who have babies or a health condition that temporarily prevent them from working. Unfortunately, Vermont is not yet one of those states. However, many Vermont workers do have the right to unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons.
The right to take family and medical leave (FML) would be hollow if an employer could punish an employee for exercising the right to take time off. Fortunately, there are laws that prohibit employers from retaliating against or interfering with an employee who take FML and provides remedies if they do.
Vermont’s Parental Leave law covers employers with 10 or more workers who work 30 hours per week on average. Workers may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy, after childbirth, and after the adoption of a baby or young child.
Vermont’s Family Leave law covers employers with 15 or more workers who work 30 hours per week on average. These employers must provide workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the worker’s own serious illness or the serious illness of a close family member (child, stepchild, ward, foster child, party to civil union, parent, spouse, or spouse’s parent).
Vermont goes a step further than most states and provides the right to Short-Term Family Leave of up to 4 hours in a 30-day period. To be eligible, an employee must work for an employer with 15 or more workers who work 30 hours per week on average. Short-Term Family Leave allows workers to participate in certain preschool or school activities, medical and dental appointments, other appointments for professional services and emergency medical reasons.
These laws require that in most cases, employees must give advance notice of their intent to take leave, although there are exceptions for emergencies.
Workers who assert their rights under Vermont’s Parental, Family, and Short-Term Family Leave laws have job protections and the right to be free from retaliation.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) applies to relatively large employers. This includes private-sector employers with 50 or more employees as well as public agencies and grade schools regardless of the number of employees. To be eligible for FMLA, a worker must have been employed for 12 months or more. They must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period prior to taking leave. They must also work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
If a worker is eligible for FMLA, they are entitled to take up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for one or more of these reasons:
FMLA leave can be taken in a continuous block, or intermittently, or on a reduced schedule.
Leave under the FMLA is “job-protected”. What that means is that upon returning from FMLA leave, most employees must be restored to the same job or one nearly identical to it with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.
An employer may have to provide a worker with additional leave beyond 12 workweeks if the employee has a disability-related need for more leave, or for reasons related to childbirth. (See our Disability Discrimination and Pregnancy Discrimination pages for more information on medical leave in these situations.)
For leave related to a family member serving in the military, eligible employees may also take up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.
It is illegal for an employer to discharge, demote, fail to promote, or take any other adverse action against a worker who takes legally protected FMLA leave. It would be illegal, for example, for an employer to suspend an employee’s health insurance or reduce someone’s pay or hours of work as punishment for taking FMLA. There are legal remedies for retaliation as well as for denying FMLA leave when an employee is eligible.
Employees who need to take time off from work because of a disability or pregnancy may be entitled to leave even if they are not eligible for FMLA or Vermont Parental and Family leave. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act require that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and employees who are pregnant and give birth. For more information, see our pages on disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.
The Vermont Employee Rights Group can help you achieve justice if you have been denied your right to family or medical leave or subjected to retaliation for exercising your rights. Call us at 833.365.2929 or fill out this online form for an initial consultation.