On May 4, the Governor of Vermont signed into law Vermont House Bill 136, a bill requiring employers to provide accommodations for individuals suffering from pregnancy–related conditions. The effective date is January 1, 2018. While the law does not specifically provide a leave of absence, it does require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations. Employers should consider requests for accommodations – and leave as an accommodation – on a case-by-case basis, utilizing an interactive process to determine whether a requested accommodation is reasonable and would allow the employee to perform her job. The law contains the following provisions:
- Employee Eligibility: All employees are eligible.
- Covered Employers: All employers are covered.
- Reasons for accommodations, including leave or time off: Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to individuals who are a experiencing a pregnancy–related condition, defined as a limitation of an employee’s ability to perform the functions of a job caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
- Types of accommodations: Some examples of a reasonable accommodation include:
- making facilities accessible;
- job restructuring, part-time, or modified work schedules;
- acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, and other similar actions.
- Length and Form of Leave: While leave is not specified as a reasonable accommodation, depending on the individual circumstances, leave may be a reasonable accommodation. The form of leave – continuous, reduced schedule, and intermittent – is not specified but likely all would be allowed when necessitated by the reason for leave and the circumstances.
- Job Protection and Benefits: An employer may not discriminate against an employee or fail to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a pregnancy-related condition, and they are to be provided with the same rights and standards under the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act (VT FEPA) as a qualified individual with a disability.
- Coordination with FMLA and VT PFLA: The new law doesn’t prohibit leave as an accommodation running concurrently with the federal FMLA and/or Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act (VT PFLA). If the employee is eligible for and the leave reason also qualifies under FMLA and VT PFLA, the absence should also be counted toward FMLA and VT PFLA time.
- Employer Hardship: An employer may not be required to provide an accommodation to a pregnant employee if it can demonstrate that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship on the employer’s business.
- Employee Notice: The law contains no timing requirements for the employee’s request for accommodation.
- Employer notice: Employers must post notice of the provisions of the law in a form provided by the Vermont Commissioner of the Department of Labor in a place conspicuous to employees at the employer’s place of business.
What Employers Must Do Now
Vermont employers are responsible for compliance with this law upon its effective date, January 1, 2018. Employers should review and, if necessary, update any policies or handbooks, post notice of the law as required in the form to be provided by the Vermont Commissioner of the Department of Labor, train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, etc.) on how to manage the accommodation requests, and train supervisors and managers on Vermont’s pregnancy accommodations so they can help spot covered absences or accommodation requests and enlist HR assistance in the interactive process.
What ReedGroup Is Doing
If you are using ReedGroup’s leave management services or software we are updating our leave management software platforms to encompass the new law, training staff and updating scripts, and incorporating Vermont into Leave Advisor™. To learn more about ReedGroup click here.