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Searching 2018 Special Session

The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 21 : Labor

Chapter 005 : EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

Subchapter 006 : FAIR EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

(Cite as: 21 V.S.A. § 495h)
  • § 495h. Sexual harassment

    (a)(1) All employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations have an obligation to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment.

    (2) All persons who engage a person to perform work or services have an obligation to ensure a working relationship with that person that is free from sexual harassment.

    (b) Every employer shall:

    (1) Adopt a policy against sexual harassment which shall include:

    (A) a statement that sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful;

    (B) a statement that it is unlawful to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint of sexual harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of sexual harassment;

    (C) a description and examples of sexual harassment;

    (D) a statement of the range of consequences for employees who commit sexual harassment;

    (E) if the employer has more than five employees, a description of the process for filing internal complaints about sexual harassment and the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the person or persons to whom complaints should be made; and

    (F) the complaint process of the appropriate State and federal employment discrimination enforcement agencies, and directions as to how to contact such agencies.

    (2) Post in a prominent and accessible location in the workplace, a poster providing, at a minimum, the elements of the employer's sexual harassment policy required by subdivision (1) of this subsection.

    (3) Provide to all employees an individual written copy of the employer's policy against sexual harassment.

    (c)(1) Employers shall provide individual copies of their written policies to new employees upon their being hired.

    (2) If an employer makes changes to its policy against sexual harassment, it shall provide to all employees a written copy of the updated policy.

    (d) The Commissioner of Labor shall prepare and provide to employers subject to this section a model policy and a model poster, which may be used by employers for the purposes of this section.

    (e) A claim that an individual did not receive the information required to be provided by this section shall not, in and of itself, result in the automatic liability of any employer to any current or former employee or applicant in any action alleging sexual harassment. An employer's compliance with the notice requirements of this section does not insulate the employer from liability for sexual harassment of any current or former employee or applicant.

    (f)(1) Employers and labor organizations are encouraged to conduct an education and training program for all new employees and members that includes at a minimum all the information outlined in this section within one year after commencement of employment.

    (2) Employers and labor organizations are encouraged to conduct an annual education and training program for all employees and members that includes at a minimum all the information outlined in this section.

    (3) Employers are encouraged to conduct additional training for new supervisory and managerial employees and members within one year after commencement of employment or membership, which should include at a minimum the information outlined in this section, the specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees, and the actions that these employees must take to ensure immediate and appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

    (4) Employers, labor organizations, and appropriate State agencies are encouraged to cooperate in making this training available.

    (g)(1) An employer shall not require any employee or prospective employee, as a condition of employment, to sign an agreement or waiver that does either of the following:

    (A) prohibits, prevents, or otherwise restricts the employee or prospective employee from opposing, disclosing, reporting, or participating in an investigation of sexual harassment; or

    (B) except as otherwise permitted by State or federal law, purports to waive a substantive or procedural right or remedy available to the employee with respect to a claim of sexual harassment.

    (2) Any provision of an agreement that violates subdivision (1) of this subsection shall be void and unenforceable.

    (h)(1) An agreement to settle a claim of sexual harassment shall not prohibit, prevent, or otherwise restrict the employee from working for the employer or any parent company, subsidiary, division, or affiliate of the employer.

    (2) An agreement to settle a sexual harassment claim shall expressly state that:

    (A) it does not prohibit, prevent, or otherwise restrict the individual who made the claim from doing any of the following:

    (i) lodging a complaint of sexual harassment committed by any person with the Attorney General, a State's Attorney, the Human Rights Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any other State or federal agency;

    (ii) testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner with an investigation related to a claim of sexual harassment conducted by the Attorney General, a State's Attorney, the Human Rights Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any other State or federal agency;

    (iii) complying with a valid request for discovery in relation to civil litigation or testifying in a hearing or trial related to a claim of sexual harassment that is conducted by a court, pursuant to an arbitration agreement, or before another appropriate tribunal; or

    (iv) exercising any right the individual may have pursuant to State or federal labor relations laws to engage in concerted activities with other employees for the purposes of collective bargaining or mutual aid and protection; and

    (B) it does not waive any rights or claims that may arise after the date the settlement agreement is executed.

    (3) Any provision of an agreement to settle a sexual harassment claim that violates subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection shall be void and unenforceable with respect to the individual who made the claim.

    (4) Nothing in subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be construed to prevent an agreement to settle a sexual harassment claim from waiving or releasing the claimant's right to seek or obtain any remedies relating to sexual harassment of the claimant by another party to the agreement that occurred before the date on which the agreement is executed.

    (i)(1)(A)(i) For the purpose of assessing compliance with the provisions of this section, the Attorney General or designee, or, if the employer is the State, the Human Rights Commission or designee, may, with 48 hours' notice, at reasonable times and without unduly disrupting business operations enter and inspect any place of business or employment, question any person who is authorized by the employer to receive or investigate complaints of sexual harassment, and examine an employer's records, policies, procedures, and training materials related to the prevention of sexual harassment and the requirements of this section.

    (ii) An employer may agree to waive or shorten the 48-hour notice period.

    (iii) As used in this subsection (i), the term "records" includes de-identified data regarding the number of complaints of sexual harassment received and the resolution of each complaint.

    (B) The employer shall at reasonable times and without unduly disrupting business operations make any persons who are authorized by the employer to receive or investigate complaints of sexual harassment and any records, policies, procedures, and training materials related to the prevention of sexual harassment and the requirements of this section available to the Attorney General or designee or, if the employer is the State, the Human Rights Commission or designee.

    (2) Following an inspection and examination pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection (i), the Attorney General or the Human Rights Commission shall notify the employer of the results of the inspection and examination, including any issues or deficiencies identified, provide resources regarding practices and procedures for the prevention of sexual harassment that the employer may wish to adopt or utilize, and identify any technical assistance that the Attorney General or the Human Rights Commission may be able to provide to help the employer address any identified issues or deficiencies. If the Attorney General or the Human Rights Commission determines that it is necessary to ensure the employer's workplace is free from sexual harassment, the employer may be required, for a period of up to three years, to provide an annual education and training program that satisfies the provisions of subdivision (4) of this subsection to all employees or to conduct an annual, anonymous working-climate survey, or both.

    (3)(A) The Attorney General shall keep records, materials, and information related to or obtained through an inspection carried out pursuant to this subsection (i) confidential as provided pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 2460(a)(4).

    (B) The Human Rights Commission shall keep records, materials, and information related to or obtained through an inspection carried out pursuant to this subsection (i) confidential as provided pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 4555.

    (4) If required by the Attorney General or Human Rights Commission pursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection, an employer shall conduct:

    (A) an annual education and training program for all employees that includes at a minimum all the information outlined in this section; and

    (B) an annual education and training program for supervisory and managerial employees that includes at a minimum all the information outlined in this section, the specific responsibilities of supervisory and managerial employees, and the actions that these employees must take to ensure immediate and appropriate corrective action in addressing sexual harassment complaints.

    (j) The Attorney General shall adopt rules as necessary to implement the provisions of this section. (Added 1993, No. 39, § 4, eff. Oct. 1, 1993; amended 2005, No. 103 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 5, 2006; 2017, No. 183 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)