Vermont has one of the strictest anti-discrimination laws of all American states. While in many states such laws only apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, in Vermont you have the right to be protected from sexual-harassment even if you’re the only employee. If you work for someone, that someone is legally required to ensure a safe workplace free of sex-based discrimination. Any type of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal.
The provisions in the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act extend to cover the rights of independent contractors, interns or volunteers. If you feel harassed in the workplace, you don’t have to put up with it. All you need is a good lawyer to show you how to proceed. Your right to a safe work environment is guaranteed, but you need to make sure you follow all the steps, as described by the law.
Although this is not mandatory, Vermont employers should have an anti-discrimination policy in place and provide training to their employees, especially those in management position, on preventing sexual harassment. At the same time, your employer should have a procedure for filing a complaint and all employees should know who they need to speak to in case they’re being harassed.
So, what do you do when someone at work is harassing you verbally or physically? First of all, let them know that such behavior is unacceptable to you and you do not welcome their sexual overtures, touching, or jokes. This may or may not help, but you need to let them know loud and clear that they’re being offensive.
As for the next step, sexual harassment lawyers encourage their clients to make an internal complaint with the HR or talk to their employer. Best if you inform them in writing and keep a copy, so you’ll have proof that they knew of your problems. If they take action and discipline those responsible, as required by law, all’s well and your problems are over.
If they fail to take action, don’t waste another minute. Reach out to seasoned employment lawyers and they’ll know what needs to be done.
You have the right to file a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the Vermont Human Rights Commission. Your attorneys will help you formulate your complaint, and you need to be very thorough about it, listing all the incidents, giving the names of those involved and describing what they said or did to you. If possible, your Vermont sexual harassment lawyers will try to talk to other employees who witnessed some of the incidents and might be willing to help. They have nothing to fear if they support you in your sexual harassment claim, as retaliation is also prohibited under the law.
The state or federal commission will investigate your complaint and they will try to negotiate a settlement with your employer. According to the law, you are entitled to seek damages for all you have suffered. If you were fired, you can recover the lost wages, and you can also seek compensation for the mental suffering, including any costs associated with therapy and medication. And you’ll be compensated for your legal costs.