Vermont Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Vermont

A Summary of Vermont Whistleblower Laws

Vermont is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Vermont Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Table Of Contents

Whistleblower Rights in Vermont

Common Law Protections

Vermont has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. In the past, Vermont courts have protected employees who file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. Vermont has a shortage of cases that are under public policy. Therefore, it is uncertain whether the state’s courts can protect whistleblowers who engage in activities other than filing a worker’s compensation claim.

Statutory Protections

State Employees

It is illegal to retaliate against a state employee for:

  • Reporting waste, fraud, abuse of authority, or violation of a law by an entity of State government, a State employee or official, or a person providing services to the State under contract.
  • Reporting the existence of a threat to the health of employees, the public, or persons under the care of the state.
  • Refusing to comply with an illegal order.
  • Participating in the enforcement of this statute.

3 V.S.A. § 973.

Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices that are prohibited under this statute.
  • Lodging a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation concerning prohibited acts or practices held by the Attorney General, a State’s Attorney, the Department of Labor, or the Human Rights Commission.
  • Disclosing his or her wages or inquiring about or discussing the wages of other employees.

Also, an employee is protected if the employer retaliates against him or her because the employer believes that the employee intends to perform the activities mentioned above or if the employer knows that the employee has already performed the activities mentioned above. 21 V.S.A. § 495(8).

Polygraph Protection Act

It is against the law to discharge, discipline, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning a violation of this act.
  • Testifying in a proceeding concerning a violation of this act.

Under this act, some employers are not allowed to require employees to take a polygraph examination as a condition for employment.

21 V.S.A. § 494d.

Healthcare employees

Employers are not allowed to discharge, suspend, alter terms of employment, or take any adverse action against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing or threatening to disclose an activity, policy, practice, procedure, action, or failure to act of the employer that the employee believes is a violation of a law or constitutes improper quality of care.
  • Providing information or testifying before a public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into the employer’s alleged violation of a law or improper quality of care.
  • Objecting to or refusing to participate in any violation of a law or practices involving improper quality of care.

21 V.S.A. § 507.

State Long-term Care Ombudsman

No person is allowed to discipline or discriminate against an employee of a long-term care facility or entity that provides long-term care services in retaliation for:

Communicating or disclosing information to the Ombudsman’s office to aid the office in carrying out its functions, duties, and responsibilities. 33 V.S.A. § 7508.

Minimum Wage

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Cooperating with the commissioner in an investigation of a violation of this statute.
  • Believing that the employee may file a complaint or cooperate in an investigation of a violation of this statute.

21 V.S.A. § 397.

Parental and Family Leave

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way retaliate against an employee for exercising or attempting to exercise a right afforded by this statute. Under this statute, employees are entitled to take unpaid parental leave or family leave for a period of not more than 12 weeks during any 12-month period. 21 V.S.A. § 473.

Nursing Mothers

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee in retaliation for exercising or attempting to exercise a right afforded by this statute. Under this statute, employers are required to provide reasonable time to employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk for their nursing children. The reasonable time can either be compensated or uncompensated. Also, employers are exempted from abiding by this statute if providing reasonable time to nursing mothers may lead to a disruption in operations. 21 V.S.A. § 305.

Occupational Safety and Health

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

21 V.S.A. § 231.

Smoking in the Workplace

Employers are not allowed to discharge, discipline, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for assisting in the enforcement or supervision of this statute. Under this statute, employers are required to establish smoke-free workplaces or restrict smoking to designated areas only. 18 V.S.A. § 1427.

Wages

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way retaliate against an employee for:

  • Lodging a complaint concerning a violation of this statute.
  • Cooperating with the Commissioner in an investigation of a violation of this statute.
  • Believing that the employee may lodge a complaint or cooperate in an investigation of a violation of this statute.

21 V.S.A. § 348.

Workers’ Compensation

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Attempting to or filing a claim for benefits under this statute or under any other federal or state law.
  • Suspecting or knowing that the employee has filed a complaint or reported a violation of this statute.
  • Testifying or cooperating with the Department or other appropriate governmental agency in an investigation of misclassification, discrimination, or other violation of this statute.

21 V.S.A. § 710.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Vermont

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation lawsuits should be filed within 6 years of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Vermont Department of Labor & Industry, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (VOSHA) within 30 days of the retaliatory action. Aggrieved employees can also choose to file a lawsuit in the appropriate court or file a lawsuit and a complaint at the same time.

Smoking in the Workplace

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Vermont Department of Labor & Industry, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (VOSHA) within 30 days of the retaliatory action.

State Employees

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Vermont

To file a complaint with the Vermont Department of Labor & Industry, Occupational Safety & Health Administration (VOSHA), call 1-800-2897-2765 or click here.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Vermont

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee or individual may be liable to the aggrieved individual or employee for a combination or any of the following remedies:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former job position or equivalent position.
  • Attorney’s fees.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Back pay, lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

State Employees

Persons who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position without a change in seniority status.
  • Back pay, lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration.
  • Compensatory damages.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Appropriate injunctive relief.
  • Reasonable costs and attorney’s fees.
  • In the event of a willful or intentional violation, the aggrieved employee may be awarded an amount up to the amount of back pay in addition to the actual back pay.

Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Restraint of prohibited acts.
  • Restitution of wages or other benefits.
  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former job position.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Plus any other equitable relief.

Healthcare employees

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former job position or equivalent position.
  • Attorney’s fees.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Back pay, lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Polygraph Protection Act

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Lost wages and benefits.
  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former job position.

State Long-term Care Ombudsman

Employers who violate this statute may be punished by imprisonment of not more than 1 year or by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Minimum Wage

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Restraint of prohibited acts.
  • Restitution of wages or benefits.
  • Reinstatement.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Nursing Mothers

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Temporary or permanent injunctive relief.
  • Economic damages, including prospective lost wages for a period not exceeding one year.
  • Investigative costs.
  • Court costs.

Occupational Safety and Health

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Rehiring or reinstatement to the employee’s former job position with back pay.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Smoking in the Workplace

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Rehiring or reinstatement to the employee’s former job position with back pay.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Wages

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Restraint of prohibited acts.
  • Restitution of wages or benefits.
  • Reinstatement.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

More Vermont Laws

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