Vermont: New Sexual Harassment Prevention Law Imparts Greater Employee Protections, Employer Penalties

APPLIES TO

All Employers with VT Employees

EFFECTIVE

July 1, 2018

QUESTIONS?

Contact HR On-Call

(888) 378-2456

Signed on May 30, 2018, the “Act Relating to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment” (the “Act”) went into effect on July 1, 2018.  The Act, in response to public outcry through the #MeToo movement, implements expansive protections for employees, independent contractors, and interns, creates new employer obligations, and greatly strengthens the state agency’s ability to enforce sexual harassment prevention remedies.

Key provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Prohibits employers from requiring any worker or prospective worker to sign an agreement requiring sexual harassment claims to be arbitrated as a condition of employment;
  • Prohibits employment agreements that prevent/restrict a worker from opposing, disclosing, reporting, or participating in an investigation of sexual harassment;
  • Requires sexual harassment settlement agreements to contain specific statements indicating when a claimant-party may disclose information about the allegations or the settlement, and prohibits such agreements from prohibiting the claimant-party from working for the employer or its related entities;
  • Establishes a sexual harassment reporting hotline and web portal, requires the Attorney General’s office to develop a streamlined reporting system, and provides the Attorney General broad powers to investigate and enforce the new law;
  • Allows the Attorney General to enter and inspect an employer’s place of business and records on 48 hours’ notice, and may also order the employer to provide annual training on sexual harassment prevention, among other remedies; and
  • Will eventually permit voiding non-disclosure agreements in prior settlements where a separate, later claim determines an alleged harasser has engaged in sexual harassment or retaliated in relation to a sexual harassment claim.

The Act also emphasizes Vermont employers’ responsibility to provide workers with a written copy of the sexual harassment policy upon hire and whenever the policy is revised.  Although not required, the Act encourages employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training to employees as well as supervisors and managers.

Action Items

  1. Review employment agreements, including arbitration agreements, with legal counsel for compliance with the Act.
  2. Implement annual sexual harassment prevention training for all employees.
  3. Have a written sexual harassment policy prepared and distributed upon hire to employees and whenever updated.
  4. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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