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VBSR Testimony-House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs

VBSR Testimony-House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs
H. 99- Equal Pay and Workplace Protections
January 30, 2013
Andrea Cohen, VBSR Executive Director

Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility is a statewide business association with over 1200 members--large and small from a variety of business types.  VBSR just celebrated our 22nd anniversary.  Our members generate $4 billion in revenue annually and employ 15% of the state’s workforce.  74% of our members have been in business in Vermont for more than 10 years. (89% more than 5 years).

We are supportive of H.99 which proposes to clarify and strengthen existing laws regarding equal pay and the prohibition of discrimination in employment. We do have some questions and suggested changes to improve the bill.

Sec 2. Unlawful Employment Practice. Page 5, Section (7) (A).  This last sentence does not make sense in a section addressing employer responsibilities. An employee may demonstrate that an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the employment purpose without producing a differential compensation and that the employer has refused to adopt the alternative practice.  What does this demonstration by the employee require of the employer?   Who is the employee demonstrating this to?  Is the employer required to do something different in response ? 
Sec 3. Equal pay in government contracts
Based upon my discussions with the AG’s Office I understand that the certification is intended to be “a check-the-box” kind of requirement. Anything more than that could over-burden small business with unnecessary paperwork that does not add value.
 
Sec 6. Flexible arrangements
It is good that this bill acknowledges and addresses the reality of today's workplace world where flexible arrangements are more common. We do not believe the legislation should require that when a request is made by an employee that it is required that a "meeting" take place.  There are times when employers are not physically co-located with their employees and an in-person meeting would be difficult or costly in that time frame. Also, it may just not be necessary if it is a simple request with a simple response.  Regulations in this new business era need to address the new way business is done.  We recommend that a response be required in a certain time frame but that the “meeting” requirement is deleted from the draft.

Sec. 13. Paid family leave study committee
VBSR has recently adopted an updated policy on paid leave.  We believe paid leave is important for all individuals, regardless of whether they have a family or whether leave is for “sick” leave.  We prefer framing the discussion that way and would support the development of a “paid leave” study committee.  (strike “family” from the draft).  We would welcome the opportunity to participate in that process.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate in consideration of this legislation.


VBSR Paid Leave Policy
Families have changed, the workforce and the economy have changed, but many of our labor and workforce policies have not. Problems in our labor and workforce policies contribute to instability in our economy. In the absence of paid leave, many families face the possibility of severe debt, bankruptcy or the need for public assistance programs when facing a personal or family health crisis when paid leave policies are not in place.

Most VBSR businesses with employees offer some form of paid leave and understand that providing this benefit generally improves the health and well-being of its workforce, and, therefore, the financial bottom line of the business. The movement towards comprehensive time off (CTO) offers respect to the individual employee who can use leave according to their particular needs whether it be child care, elder care, personal care, vacation, etc.  We believe the state should not dictate to the business owner or the employee what leave should or should not be used for.

VBSR believes there needs to be a comprehensive and uniform approach to paid leave that does not favor one type of family at a particular stage in life. We support the development of a state strategy for all businesses that guarantees paid leave as a step toward creating a more stable workforce and stable families.

This public policy should:

  • Expand the 1991 Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act (VPFL) to include wage replacement for a broader pool of workers and businesses.
  • Provide outreach and education to the business community on the positive health outcomes and improved income security connected with expanded paid leave policies and the benefits of Combined Time Off.
  • Require businesses to provide 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Consider the establishment of Temporary Leave Insurance Fund to make paid worker leave a social responsibility of the business community and to make these programs more affordable for smaller businesses.
  • Allow businesses to pool paid leave under a Combined Time Off policy that allows workers to take necessary time off without wage loss regardless if the use is for vacation, a basic illness or a planned or emergency medical procedure.


A stable workforce and stable families are essential components in a sustainable economic system. Establishing a state mandate of paid leave for Vermont’s workforce will benefit employees, employers and society.

 

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