Effective January 2014, a new law affords Vermont employees the right to request “a flexible work arrangement” for any reason and requires the employer to discuss and consider such requests” at least twice per calendar year.” The law is part of the state’s amended equal pay law which also gives employees the right to take unpaid leave to attend his/her town meeting as long as it does not conflict with “the essential operation” of the employer’s business. The law also protects employees who seek flexible work arrangements from retaliation or discrimination.
What Employers Need to Know
The laws defines a flexible work arrangement as “intermediate or long-term changes in the employee’s regular working arrangements, including changes in the number of days or hours worked, changes in the time the employee arrives at or departs from work, work from home, or job sharing.”
Once an employee submits a request verbally or in written form, the employer must discuss it in good faith. The law does not mandate that such requests be granted, but is intended to provide a framework for a meaningful workplace dialogue.
However, the employer must grant the request if it is “not inconsistent with business operations or its legal or contractual obligations.” The law identifies eight factors the employer may consider:
(1) the burden of additional costs
(2) the effect on aggregate employee morale
(3) the effect on ability to meet consumer demand
(4) an inability to reorganize work among existing staff
(5) an inability to recruit additional staff
(6) a detrimental impact on business quality or performance
(7) an insufficiency of work during periods employee proposes to work
(8) planned structural changes to the business
Employers need to notify employees of their decision. If the employee submitted a written request, the employer must respond in kind with a complete or partial denial of the request in writing.
Requests outside the Scope of the New Law
This new law doesn’t apply to other forms of leave that may already be required by Vermont or federal law, such as parental or family leave, accommodations for disabilities, or workers’ compensation injuries. The law does not diminish rights set forth in labor contracts. It also doesn’t apply to routine shift scheduling or vacation requests..