Civil and Legal Rights

VCW supports legislation, policies, programs, and initiatives that facilitate full civil rights for all Vermonters, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, place of birth, age, physical or mental disability.

VCW monitors legislation and public policies, provides research and information, and collaborates on measures that support the following outcomes:
- Women will understand their rights under Vermont law.
- Women will have equal access to justice
.

 

The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont

The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont
Since 1977, The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont has been a “go to” source of information for Vermont women, their families, and the professionals that serve them. This handbook, written in plain language covers issues affecting all Vermonters, such as marriage and divorce, adoption, wills and probate, women’s health, employment and education, housing and public accommodations, violence, public assistance and government benefits, insurance, as well as others. New features of our latest update (January ‘12) include information on human trafficking, same sex marriage, and immigration, as well as links to our online resource directory and to federal and state statute websites. The result is a reader-friendly document with easy-access reference links. Listen to our radio public service announcement, check out the handbook and let us know what you think! Thanks to students at Vermont Law School, Spanish language editions of many chapters of the newly updated Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook are now available!

 

NEW REPORT: WOMEN'S BUSINESS OWNERSHIP AND THE VERMONT ECONOMY, FROM CHANGE THE STORY

Report # 3 from Change the Story - women's Business Ownership

Change The Story VT (CTS) revealed findings on the status of women-­owned businesses in Vermont in a keynote address to Women Business Owners Network fall conference participants October 19th. CTS Director Tiffany Bluemle, with Pat Heffernan and Laura Lind‐Blum of Research Partners, and Vermont Commission on Women’s Cary Brown unveiled Women's Business Ownership and the Vermont Economy. This report details both exciting opportunities and great success that owning a business holds for women, as well as barriers and challenges faced, with focus on latent potential.  Like CTS’s other reports, this one closes with questions, rather than recommendations in order to generate statewide conversations and deepen understanding.  Link here to read the report.

 

VERMONT FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE (FAMLI) COALITION LAUNCHES

The Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition launched their campaign to establish a statewide family and medical leave insurance program October 19th at the Family Center of Washington County in Montpelier.

This program would allow Vermonters to have access to paid, job-protected leave.  This leave would cover time to bond with or care for a newborn, recover from a serious long-term illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious long-term illness or injury. 

Speakers at the launch included:
Cary Brown, Vermont Commission on Women
Former Governor Madeleine Kunin
Sascha Mayer, Owner of Mamava
Claire Kendall, Co-Executive Director of the Family Center
Tara Hodgkins, Mother and Caregiver
Read more about the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition here.
View a photo slideshow of the Coalition's launch on the Facebook page of the Family Center of Washington County or read press covereage of the launch here.

 

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY'S 20TH ANNUAL WOMEN’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY CONFERENCE  

Always fabulous and always free, this day of inspiration for women of all ages and stages took place on Saturday, June 4th at Vermont Tech in Randolph. Keynote speaker this year was United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  Read her remarks here.  Sen. Leahy's remarks featured our Change The Story initiative (see video below) - read them here.  VCW's Cary Brown co-presented the workshop: Your Legal Rights in the Workplace with Julio Thompson of the Vermont Attorney General's Civil Rights Division, and Karen L. Richards of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, pictured below.

Julio, Cary and Karen

 

 

EQUAL PAY DAY, TUESDAY, APRIL 12TH

Throughout the U.S., women's organizations observe Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year, due to the gender wage gap. Median annual income for women working full-time year-round in Vermont is $37,000.  That's $7,000 less than the median annual salary earned by men. This translates to a 16% wage gap in Vermont.
VCW, BPW, League members observe as House passes Equal Pay Day resolution
VCW, BPW, League members observe as House passes Equal Pay Day resolution

Upon opening of the day’s legislative session, House concurrent resolution 338 designating April 12, 2016 as Equal Pay Day in Vermont was read.   Lead sponsors were Representatives Burke, Gonzalez and Morris, and Senator Bray, and the reading was observed by advocates for equal pay dressed in red, symbolizing women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap. Read the resolution here.  

(L to R) Cary Brown, Governor Shumlin, Tiffany Bluemle, Desiree Cerretani, Meg Smith
(L to R) Cary Brown, Governor Shumlin, Tiffany Bluemle, Desiree Cerretani, Meg Smith

At 11:00 a.m. Governor Peter Shumlin signed the Equal Pay Day proclamation in his ceremonial office. Read the proclmation here. This event included the presentation of a new report examining occupational segregation, the uneven distribution of labor across and within employment sectors by gender, its impact on women’s wages, and the link to Vermont’s economic vitality.  This new report, “Where Vermont Women Work…and Why It Matters” was developed by Change The Story VT, an initiative of three statewide organizations with longstanding focus on women’s economic well-being: the Vermont Commission on Women, the Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women.  Equal Pay Day speakers at the proclamation event wereTiffany Bluemle of Change The Story VT, Cary Brown of the Vermont Commission on Women, Desiree Cerretani, a young mechanical engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems, and Meg Smith of the Vermont Women’s Fund.  

report from Change The Story on occupational segregation in Vermont

Read Senator Sanders' Equal Pay Day statement here.  Read Senator Leahy's Equal Pay Day Statement here.

 

 

SEX, RACE & EMPOWERMENT IN THE 21st CENTURY CONFERENCE

This day-long conference on Friday, April 15th was hosted by Vermont Law School's Women's Law Group, Law Students for Reproductive Justice and the Vermont Commission on Women.  Sex, Race & Empowerment in the 21st Century offered an opportunity for participants to understand the impact of violence and the importance of providing legal and advocacy services to all survivors; and the importance of ensuring women's access to affordable and safe reproductive healthcare.  Presenters included Cary Brown of the VCW,  students and professors from VLS, staff from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, The Pride Center of Vermont, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and many others! 

 

VCW Commissioners, Advisors and Staff Observe Signing of Paid Sick Days Bill 8/9/16

NEW LAW: PAID SICK DAYS

VCW's Commissioners, Advisors and staff watched from the House galley as Governor Shumlin signs into law Paid Sick Days on Wednesday, March 9th 2016.  VCW  provided testimony (see below) and support as a member of Vermont's Paid Sick Days Coalition.

 

VCW IN THE LEGISLATURE

Since our inception in 1964, the Commission has been called upon to provide information to the legislative and executive branches of state government on issues affecting women.  VCW testified on these bills in the 2016 session: 

S.15/ H.187 - AN ACT RELATING TO ABSENCE FROM WORK FOR HEALTH CARE AND SAFETY (Paid Sick Days).  Link to testimony in Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs here, and 2015 session testimony in the House here and Senate here.

H.808 - AN ACT RELATING TO ACCOMMODATIONS FOR PREGNANT EMPLOYEES.  Link to VCW testimony in House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs here.

H.620 - AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH INSURANCE AND MEDICAID COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTIVES. Link to VCW testimony in House Committee on Health Care here.

H.773 - AN ACT RELATING TO CLASSIFICATION OF EMPLOYEES AND INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development link to bill here.

FY2017 GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED STATE BUDGET.  Link to VCW testimony in House Appropriations Committee here.

 

cover of Change the Story Report

Change the Story Issues New Report: Women Work and Wages in Vermont

Change The Story VT (CTS), a multi-year initiative fueled by the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women, has released the first of a series of briefs called “Women, Work and Wages in Vermont”. Much of this data is not regularly collected or published. All of it is specific to Vermont, and all is critical - not just in what it reflects about women, but in its implications for Vermont’s economic future.

“The objective of Change The Story is to move the needle of women’s economic security - faster. This initial compilation of information focuses on demographic data and represents months of diving deep into state and national data, reports, and other ancillary resources to create an accurate snapshot of the state of women in Vermont when it comes to work and wages,” shared Tiffany Bluemle, Director of CTS.

Today Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women and Bluemle presented the brief’s findings to members of the Vermont State Legislature. Among the brief’s highlights:
- Women are significantly more likely than men to live in poverty or economic insecurity – in large part because of the disproportionate rates at which they have primary responsibility for the care of minor children.
- 43% of VT women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses as defined by VT’s Joint Fiscal Office.

“This brief and the overall CTS initiative is a prime example of how organizations can come together to leverage their impact in the state, as well as build a data-driven case for this important work,” shared Brown.

Additional findings include:
- The poverty rate for families headed by single women is 37.5% - nine times the poverty rate of married couples.
- Women who work full-time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs - across every age group, at every level of education.
- VT women are especially vulnerable in their senior years, when their median annual income from Social Security ($10,000) is half that of men ($20,000).

A copy of the report is available at www.changethestoryvt.org.

 

WOMEN, POVERTY & JUSTICE: ADDRESSING HOMELESSNESS AND PROMOTING FINANCIAL SECURITY FOR WOMEN IN VERMONT
Monday, March 7th, 8-9:30 AM, Main Street Landing, on the Burlington Waterfront

With Featured Speakers:
Jan Demers, Executive Director, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity
Kirby Dunn, Executive Director, HomeShare Vermont
Rita Markley, Executive Director, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)
Karen Richards, Executive Director, Vermont Human Rights Commission

Hosted by:
Main Street Landing

Sponsored by:
Vermont Commission on Women

In Partnership with:
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Change the Story VT, Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), Hunger Free Vermont, Main Street Alliance, Mercy Connections, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, Vermont Legal Aid, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Works for Women, Vermont Human Rights Commission, and Voices for Vermont’s Children. 

Link here for more info. 

 

THE VERMONT WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY SUMMIT

Presented by the Vermont Commission on Women & the Vermont Women’s Legislative Caucus
Special thanks to all 158 of you who attended this event at the Vermont State House in Montpelier
Thursday October 8, 2015, from 8:30-3:30

Latifa Lyles addresses Summit participants

Latifa Lyles, (pictured above) Director of the Women's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor was the keynote speaker for this event. Ms. Lyles is responsible for shaping the federal agency’s research agenda, and has directed focus on women in high-growth occupations, as older workers, and in non-traditional jobs. She oversaw last year’s White House Summit on Working Families, and prior to current position, serving as Deputy Director, she managed the National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility, a nationwide event series. She provided insight and data on issues around women and work.

DOL's Latifa Lyles and VCW's Cary Brown

Latifa Lyles, Director of the Women's Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor and VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown. (Photo Credit: Susan Rtiz)

Morning panel discussions titled “Getting Women to Work” and “Keeping Women at Work” featured Vermont experts and policy leaders. Participants fostered understanding of specific issues and had rich and real conversations in afternoon small group sessions. Offerings include citizen advocacy trainings, as well as issues like women in corrections and women’s health. Review the agenda here. Check out the presenter organizations and breakout session descriptions here.

 

Getting Women to Work

The Summit's "Getting Women to Work" Panel – (L to R) Tiffany Bluemle - Director of Change the Story, Sue Ryan - Director of Programs at VT Child Care Industry and Careers Council, and Sheila Reed - former Associate Director, Voices for Vermont's Children. (Photo Credit: Susan Rtiz)

 

Keeping Women at work panel

The Summit's "Keeping Women at Work" Panel – (L to R) moderated by Rep. Helen Head, with Sarah Phillips - Chief Administrator of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Beth Sachs - Founder of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, and Ashley Moore - Outreach Coordinator of Main Street Alliance of Vermont (Photo Credit: Susan Rtiz)

 

Imacts of Incarceration

The Summit's Afternoon Breakout Session, "Impacts of Incarceration" Featuring (L to R) Suzi Wizowaty - Executive Directorof Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform, Jill Evans - Director of the Essex Community Justice Center, Trine Bech - Executive Director of the Vermont Parent Representation Center, and Traci Sawyers - Early Childhood Health Expert and Grant Manager at Building Bright Futures. (Photo Credit: Susan Rtiz)

Read (and watch) news coverage of the Summit here.

 

Dad with baby picture

VERMONT COMMISSION ON WOMEN AWARDED $173,794 FEDERAL GRANT TO HELP DEVELOP STATE PAID FAMILY LEAVE PROGRAM
Grant Will Fund State Feasibility Study for Paid Family and Medical Leave

(From press release, 9/29/15) - The Vermont Commission on Women will receive a $173,794 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to study the feasibility of developing a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Such a program would ensure all Vermont workers have access to paid time off to care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member, the Department of Labor announced today.

These funds are to be used for planning purposes, including research and analysis, examining program design and eligibility guidelines. In addition to Vermont, the grants—totaling $1.55 million—were awarded to five other states: California, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Washington; and to two municipalities: New York City and Montgomery County in Maryland. Read the US DOL Women’s Bureau press release for more information.

“I congratulate the Vermont Commission on Women on receiving this well-deserved grant,” Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT., remarked. “As more states move forward on paid family and medical leave, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This grant will help ensure that Vermont, led by the Commission’s efforts, will formulate a strategy that meets the needs of our working families and businesses alike.”

“When you look at what other wealthy countries are doing, what you find is that the United States of America is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid family leave, paid sick time or paid vacation time,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “This federal grant to the Vermont Commission on Women is a good first step to help develop a statewide, paid family and medical leave policy that would allow working families to have paid time off to care for a newborn child or a sick family member.”

“Most Vermonters agree that if you’re sick you shouldn’t be faced with the decision to either go to work and put others at risk or miss work, sacrifice your paycheck, and potentially lose your job,” Governor Peter Shumlin stated. “That’s why this study is vital in allowing us to better recognize needs of families, as well as costs and burdens to businesses so that we may move forward in a balanced and thoughtful way to bring this important benefit to working Vermonters. I am so proud of the good work being done by the Vermont Commission on Women and congratulate them on their successful application for a Paid Leave Analysis grant by the Department of Labor.”

Responding to the grant announcement, Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said, “This money comes at an opportune time, as public conversation, political will and legislative momentum in support of paid leave have intensified in Vermont. People are recognizing the reality that in 2015, most families have both parents in the workforce, and supporting working families is not only the right thing to do, it supports business and the state economy. We want to applaud the Department of Labor for prioritizing the needs of all workers, and for investing in Vermont. The Commission has been working for 51 years to expand opportunities for women in the workforce and we look forward to exploring solutions that suit the needs of both employers and workers.”

"This is an exciting opportunity to explore how we can better support Vermont families.” remarked State Representative Jill Krowinski, Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus, “I thank the Vermont Commission on Women for their leadership on this grant. We know that access to paid family and medical leave can improve economic security for women. On October 8th, the Commission and the Vermont Women's Legislative Caucus will be hosting a Women's Economic Security Summit at the State House and are thrilled to host Latifa Lyles, the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor, as our guest speaker."

The Vermont Commission on Women’s grant work will consist of analysis of potential administrative structures, including both public and private insurance models. Grant work will also examine costs of a program: both employee-funded and combination employer/employee funded models; implementation costs; usage, cost and coverage for both male and female workers; and a cost-benefit analysis. The study also will collect and analyze data regarding current practices of employers and employees; public opinion; the practical impact on employers; the need for access by both men and women; and the impact on children and families.

  

Vermont Law School Students Participate in Cheryl Hanna Legal Rights of Women Internship

 Equal Pay case
Prof. Cheryl Hanna addresses media outside Burlington's federal building, re: landmark Equal Pay case

We’ve welcomed two Vermont Law School students as interns to assist with updating our handbook, “The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont,” during a summer internship program in the late Professor Cheryl Hanna’s memory. As part of the internship, VLS students Maeve Callaghan ’16 and Arden Florian ’16 will write, research state and federal statutes, and work with experts in the field to update the handbook with recently passed laws. Hanna, who passed away in July 2014, worked with VLS students to update this publication in 2011. We’ve named the internship after her in tribute. Read more here. Take a look at the Legal Rights of Women in Vermont handbook here.

 

Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty

Both VCW Executive Director Cary Brown and VCW Commissioner Melinda Moulton serve on the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty. The Council is comprised of citizens who have received state benefits, as well as representatives from organizations who provide direct services or work to prevent and address poverty in Vermont. Read the Council's report and recommendations to address poverty in Vermont for 2015 here. Read the Council's 2014 recommendations here. Learn more about the Council and its work here. Read the Governor’s press release about the Council's work here. Link to the Council's website here and blog here.

 

Gathering

Forums Exploring Paid Family & Medical Leave

Vermont Commission on Women and Main Street Alliance of Vermont will host a series of free community forums across the state this fall focusing on long-term paid family and medical leave. These forums examine the possibility of developing and implementing a state-run Temporary Disability and Caregiver Insurance (TDCI) Program in our state as a funding mechanism for leave. Participants will explore the need for a TDCI program; how similar programs have been implemented in other states; and what a successful TDCI program could look like for Vermont. The forums will consist of a brief presentation followed by a discussion with business owners and community members. Coffee and refreshments will be served. The Vermont Community Foundation provided financial support to facilitate the coordination of these forums around the state. The Vermont Community Foundation’s Innovations and Collaborations grant program supports projects that help nonprofits collaborate across issues and sectors to develop common solutions to community needs.

These morning forums will be held in five locations in September and October:
ST. ALBANS at Back Inn Time, Tuesday, 9/29 from 9:00 am-10:30 am.
BURLINGTON at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center Gallery Room, Wednesday, 10/7 from 8:00 am-9:30 am.
WOODSTOCK at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre, Wednesday, 10/14 from 8:00 am-9:30 am.
BRATTLEBORO at the Latchis Theater - Completed!
MANCHESTER at the Community Library- Completed!

In addition to the Vermont Commission on Women and Main Street Alliance Vermont, an Oversight Committee will review findings and provide guidance. Oversight Committee participants represent a variety of constituencies and expertise related to the topic, and include a UVM labor economist and specializing in the political economy of low-wage labor market, as well as representatives from: the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce & Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation; the Vermont Attorney General’s Office; Vermont Department of Health’s Division of Maternal and Child Health, AARP; Governor Shumlin's office; the Vermont Department of Labor; and Change the Story Vermont, a multi-year strategy to align philanthropy, policy, and programs to significantly advance women’s economic security in Vermont. For more information or to RSVP for an event, please contact Ashley Moore. Read the press release.

 

Panel Discussion in St. Albans: Successful Reentry for Women in Corrections

St. Albans Mayor Elizabeth Gamache and panel
Panel moderator/St. Albans mayor Elizabeth Gamache (standing) addresses audience

Commissioner and St. Albans native Danielle Martel put together this community panel titled, “Successful Reentry for Women in Corrections.” This standing room only event took place October 8th at St. Albans City Hall and was sponsored by VCW in celebration of our 50th anniversary. featured experts working with this population addressing employment, educational opportunities, risk reduction, anti-recidivism programs, and health care. Participants learned from and shared thoughts with those providing support to local women building better lives and better relationships with family, children and the Saint Albans community as a whole.
Watch the video here - special thanks to thanks to Northwest Access TV. Introduction by VCW executive director Cary Brown (video caption is incorrect)

The panel moderator was St. Albans Mayor, Elizabeth Gamache. Panelists included:
Cathy Ainsworth, Vermont Women’s Mentoring Program, Mercy Connections
Scott Bork, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Patient Care Services, Northwestern Medical Center
Tiffany Bluemle, Executive Director, Vermont Works for Women
Sherry Caforia, District Manager, Department of Corrections
Julian Desnoyer, Northwestern Counseling and Support Services
Danielle Lindley, Parent Child Center Program Director, Family Center of Northwestern Vermont
Kris Lukens, Director, Voices Against Violence/Laurie's House
Candace Lewis, Coordinator of Academic Services, Community College of Vermont, St. Albans
Sheila Perrotte, St. Albans Branch Manager, Westaff

 

The Incarcerated Women’s Initiative, Then and Now: Vermont Summit on Women in Corrections

Poster to advertise corrections summit

VCW assisted with coordination and co-sponsorship of this event which took place September 30th at Vermont Law School. Almost 200 participants discussed the history of incarcerated women in Vermont, the issues still facing women in corrections today, and ideas for next step policy recommendations. Experts in this field in Vermont provided background and context for the discussion, formerly incarcerated women shared their experience and American University’s Brenda Smith provided national and international perspective and direction on this issue. Event agenda here.

Panel speaks about women in corrections @ IWI conference
Kim Bushey, VCW's Cary Brown and Julie Brisson speak about Vermont's incarcerated women

VCW assisted with coordination and co-sponsorship of this event which took place September 30th at Vermont Law School. Almost 200 participants discussed the history of incarcerated women in Vermont, the issues still facing women in corrections today, and ideas for next step policy recommendations. Experts in this field in Vermont provided background and context for the discussion, formerly incarcerated women shared their experience and American University’s Brenda Smith provided national and international perspective and direction on this issue.

 

VCW is a member of the Vermont Department of Corrections Recidivism Reduction Task Force.

 

PODCAST LINK:
Taking the Lead: Women & Families in the Workplace in Vermont from WDEV Radio Vermont's The Vermont Conversation with host David Goodman, (10/28/15)

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under age 18 are in the U.S. workforce, and working mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households. Is Vermont a leader or laggard when it comes to providing opportunities for women and families in the workplace? We talk with people who have taken the lead in making workplaces women and family friendly. With:
Cary Brown, Executive Director, Vermont Commission on Women
Bram Kleppner, CEO, Danforth Pewter
Russ Elek, Communication and Membership Manager, VBSR
Sarah Lord, Seventh Generation
Sascha Mayer, CEO and Co-founder, Mamava,
Gwen Pokalo, Director of the Women’s Small Business Program at Mercy Connections

 

 

VCW serves on the Department of Corrections Women’s Advisory Committee on Women Offender Services. The Committee provides a conduit for communication and collaboration between the Department of Corrections and its community partners.

 

VCW is a member of the Vermont Justice Coalition, non-profit organizations and public agencies working together to reduce the number of people in prison and to create a more fair, safer Vermont for all.

 

Read the white paper, Reclaiming Lost Ground for Vermont's Incarcerated Women. VCW took part in this collaborative effort to improve conditions for women inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.

 

Women, Poverty and Justice

Women, Poverty and Justice symposium logo

On Monday April 14th VCW joined with other sponsors to present Women, Poverty and Justice, a symposium and panel discussion aimed at legislators, policymakers and advocates to address hunger and housing and to promote financial security for women. More info “Women, Poverty & Justice” an event to focus attention on poverty and its disproportionate impacts on women, here and Fox 44 news clip here.

 

Vermont Summit on Working Families

On June 23, President Obama convened a White House Summit on Working Families, focusing on strenthening the nation's workplaces to better support working families, boost businesses' bottom lines, and ensure America's global economic competitiveness in the coming decades. Vermont's lead up event to this Summit was held on Thursday, June 12th at Main Street Landing and featured a keynote address from Governor Madeleine Kunin. Watch the Vermont Summit on Working Families (recorded by Channel 17/Town Meeting TV) or read more about the Vermont Summit on Working Families here.

Commissioners Felicia Kornbluh (standing in back), Melinda Moulton and Marcia Merrill discuss policies supporting working Vermonters at the Summit
VCW Commissioners Felicia Kornbluh (standing), Melinda Moulton and Marcia Merrill (seated) discuss public policy benefiting working Vermont families at the Summit

Materials from the Vermont Summit
Materials from the Summit

 

Workplace Laws Employees and Employers Need To Know

Workplace laws flyer cover page

Important Workplace Laws Vermont Workers Should Know (PDF, 167 KB)

Important Workplace Laws Vermont Employers Should Know (PDF, 196 KB)

These flyers are part of a public information campaign to educate both employers and workers in Vermont about their rights and responsibilities under the new equal pay law.

Starting in January 2014, workers in Vermont have the right to request flexible working arrangements without fear of retaliation. Those intermediate or long-term changes might include working from home, changes in the number of days or hours worked, changes in work arrival or departure times or job-sharing. Employers must discuss and consider such requests at least twice per calendar year. Other information incorporated includes current equal pay laws, how to handle suspected pay discrimination, wage disclosure laws, pregnant worker’s rights, lactation accommodations, anti-retaliation protection, and information concerning family and medical leave. Additionally, the flyer targeted to employers features an equal pay audit - a checklist to help employers review fair pay policy and procedures, and also case studies illustrating how Vermont businesses implement flexible working arrangements. The flyer targeted to workers includes a section on what to do if you suspect pay discrimination. Each flyer includes additional resources to learn more or get help. Learn more: listen to VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition Act 31 and flexible working arrangements.

 

unfinished agenda event logo
The recent New England Women’s Policy Conference, spearheaded by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston was held November 7th. It was a power-packed day of learning, networking and celebrating state and regional action in four issue areas promoting women’s economic security: wages and income security; health and family leave policies; childcare; and elder care. Stay tuned for 2016's event, and save the date for November 18th!

VCW's ED joins other EDs from other states at Boston's Unfinished Agenda conference

VCW's Cary Brown (pictured on stage above) addressed the 400 event participants - women leaders from the New England states. Read materials and watch for a video capturing highlights of the day here. Read "Call to Action: A Policy Framework for Women’s Economic Security" providing a unifying framework for policy change across the region in five key areas and catalyzes further action. Read this document here. (PDF, 1839 KB)

 

EQUAL PAY

New Law: An Act Relating to Equal Pay

Picture of VCW's Cary Brown, J. Franco, Gov. Shumlin, Gov. Kunin at equal pay signing

On Tuesday May 14th Governor Shumlin signed into law a bill strengthening protections for Vermont workers around a number of issues, most notably for equal pay. The law includes provisions for equal pay; protections for employees who ask coworkers what they are paid; certification of compliance of government contractors with Vermont’s equal pay laws; protections for new mothers who must express breast milk for their babies at work; protections for employees to request flexible work arrangements; and establishment of a study committee looking at the mechanics of a paid family leave law in Vermont. Cary Brown, VCW's Executive Director and member of the diverse coalition of groups that worked together on this legislation observed, “This law provides a wealth of tools for addressing inequities in pay and working conditions, and is a huge benefit to working families in Vermont. It strengthens and clarifies existing laws ensuring equal pay for equal work, increases the accountability of state contractors, and creates new protections for workers who discuss wages. This law makes Vermont the first state in the country to guarantee employees’ right to request flexible working arrangements, supporting both men’s and women’s participation in work and family responsibilities.” State agencies, including the Attorney General’s office, the Human Rights Commission and the Vermont Commission on Women, will be working together on a public information campaign targeted at workers and employers to let them know about the new law’s provisions. Read VCW's press release (PDF file, 55 KB). Read the fact sheet about Act 31, An Act Relating to Equal Pay (PDF file, 139 KB) Listen to VCW's Executive Director, Cary Brown speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition Act 31 and flexible working arrangements.

 

Greater Burlington Women's Forum Networking Lunch: Flexible Working Arrangements

On January 20th 2014 Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women joined with Cheryl Hanna, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School; and Lindsay Deslauriers, Public Policy Associate at Voices for Vermont's Children for a panel discussion about changes to workplace policy which took effect that same month and what it meant for families and flexibility.

 

VCW In the News - On Equal Pay
 VCW Executive Director Cary Brown at State House press conference with Governor

In NY Times: The Unspoken Stigma of Workplace Flexibility

On Vermont Public Radio: New Law Addresses Equal Pay For Women

In Times Argus: Vermont takes lead in closing wage gap

On CBS: Cary Brown on WCAX’s The :30

On Senator Bill Dolye's On Vermont Issues via Orca Media

On The Mark Johnson Show

In Vermont Woman

In Vermont Digger

In the Burlington Free Press

In the Rutland Herald

 

Equal Pay Act Court Case Decision

Cary Brown Addresses Media at Federal building post hearing
Background: On March 19th a hearing took place in US District Court in the first case interpreting the Vermont Equal Pay Act of 2002. The Vermont Commission on Women was joined by numerous national and state organizations and public policy leaders in educating the court on the enduring problem of gender based wage discrimination and urging it to interpret Vermont's law to provide broad remedy to victims of such discrimination. Vermont Law School students lead by professor Cheryl Hanna crafted this amicus brief (PDF file, 316 KB) which explains why Vermont’s Equal Pay Act is important, why and how wage discrimination continues to take place, and how this legal remedyOn March 19th a hearing took place in US District Court in the first case interpreting the Vermont Equal Pay Act of 2002. The Vermont Commission on Women was joined by numerous national and state organizations and public policy leaders in educating the court on the enduring problem of gender based wage discrimination and urging it to interpret Vermont's law to provide broad remedy to victims of such discrimination. Vermont Law School students lead by professor Cheryl Hanna crafted this amicus brief (PDF file, 316 KB) which explains why Vermont’s Equal Pay Act is important, why and how wage discrimination continues to take place, and how this legal remedy should function. Read the press release (PDF file, 32 KB). Read the Court's Decision (PDF file, 87 KB)

 

Equal Pay Day

 16% off everything!

Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day when women's earnings catch up to men's from the previous year. It takes an extra three months thanks to the 23-percent wage gap in the U.S. Vermont does a bit better, but our wage gap is still about 16-percent. VCW and Business and Professional Women joined legislators and a huge group of Girls on the Run girls at the signing of the 2013 Equal Pay Day proclamation. Legislators received Equal Pay Buttons attached to a coupon for 16% off all goods and services for working Vermont women. The other side of the coupon reads: "April 9, 2013 symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In Vermont, women earn 84 cents for every man’s dollar. Equal pay can make a difference in whether families can afford healthcare, child care, higher education, and a secure retirement." What can you do about the wage gap? Read our Equal Pay Brochure (PDF file, 65 KB)

 

Governor Shumlin signs Equal Pay Day proclamation
Governor Shumin signs proclamation declaring April 8th 2014 as Equal Pay Day

Vermont Business and Professional Women join with the Vermont Commission on Women (pictured with Governor above) to call attention to the wage gap in Vermont every year on Equal Pay Day. We wear red to symbolize women being "in the red" due to the gender wage gap. Read the Governor’s Equal Pay Day proclamation here.

Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director speaks about the wage gap in Vermont with Governor Shumlin and BPW members
Cary Brown, VCW Executive Director speaks about the wage gap in Vermont with Governor Shumlin and BPW members

Editorial: -15%: Wage Gap in Vermont on Equal Pay Day, 2014
by Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women

The American Association of University Women recently released their 2014 report detailing the wage gap between men and women in the country. The good news is that Vermont’s wage gap is tied for second lowest – Vermont women make 85% of the money that Vermont men make, second only to Washington D.C., where women make 90% of what men make.

The bad news is that the last time this report came out, women in Vermont were making 87% of what men made. The wage gap is growing.

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, Governor Shumlin will sign a proclamation recognizing Equal Pay Day. This is the symbolic day in 2014 when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s from 2013. Nationally, women make just 77 cents for every dollar that men make, so we can feel proud that in Vermont we’re doing a bit better than in most of the country.

But why do we still have a wage gap at all? Why does it persist, and even grow, in spite of the fact that we’ve had a federal law on the books outlawing pay discrimination for over fifty years?

Some will still insist that it’s women’s choices that lead to a wage gap. Women choose to go into occupations that pay less (number one job for women in the 1950s? Secretary. Number one job for women in the 2010s? Secretary!). Women also choose to take time off from working in order to tend to family responsibilities, so they get left behind in the hours they work and in the raises and promotions they qualify for.

But why is it that the jobs that are dominated by men pay more than the jobs that are dominated by women? And why is it that women are bearing a greater burden of family responsibility than men are? Even when men do take time away from work to care for their families, they are much less likely to say that it hurt their career than women are.

But consider the fact that a number of studies have found that even when discounting the impact of these choices, there is still a persistent wage gap. Among recent college graduates, in their first jobs, when we adjust for factors such as occupation choice, hours worked, and GPA, women are still earning just 93% of what men do.

Clearly, there is more going on than women’s individual choices.

Last year, in the first case brought to court under Vermont’s equal pay law, a woman sued because she was replaced with a man who was paid much more in his starting pay than she was after many years of experience. Even after accounting for any legitimate disparities, Judge William Sessions rejected the employer’s argument that the higher pay was justified, writing, “Any gap in the pay of men and women, whether forty or ten percent, is an implicit statement to our children that we value the work of our daughters less than that of our sons.”

Fifty years ago, Governor Philip Hoff created the Vermont Commission on Women, in recognition of the need to advance rights and opportunities for women in Vermont. Women earned just 59 cents for a man’s dollar back in 1964, so we know we’re going in the right direction. I look forward to the day – hopefully not in another fifty years – when we’ll celebrate Equal Pay Day on December 31

 

Vermont Workplaces Support Nursing Moms

Nursing Moms cover
We've recently updated Vermont Workplaces Support Nursing Moms (PDF file, 1.17 MB), information for women returning to the workforce after having a baby and for their employers. In addition, VCW partnered with Vermont's Breastfeeding Network and the Department of Health to offer free help to all Vermont businesses welcoming back their new working moms. Vermont workplaces need lower health care costs, lower turnover rates, lower absenteeism rates, and higher employee productivity and morale. How to get them? Lactation support!

 

Historical photo - Vermont Women Fight for Right to Vote
Celebrating Women's Equality Day 2015

August 26, 2015, marks the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - an important milestone in women's equality. The significance of this victory cannot be understated, as the movement for women's suffrage was a nonviolent and long-lasting civil rights effort. Despite harassment and sometimes violent attacks, the suffragists remained committed to nonviolence and to their right to vote.

Today, women have the right to vote, yet they still face many issues that stand between themselves and their right to good health and to care for their children. Policymakers, business owners and advocates gathered at a press conference in Burlington to mark this anniversary, and celebrate both progress for women in our state and milestones yet to be won. VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown (pictured below) opened the event and served as emcee, explaining the significance of Women’s Equality Day and providing context for how paid sick days plays a role in women’s economic security.
Cary Brown at podium

Link here for press coverage from the event, featuring speakers: Governor Shumlin, House Speaker Smith, Senator Baruth, host of the event, Eric Warnstedt, Chef Owner, Hen of the Wood, and Stephanie Hainley, Chief Operating Officer, White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors.

 

Governor’s Workforce Equity and Diversity Council

VCW is a member of the Governor’s Workforce Equity and Diversity Council. The mission of the the council is to support a workplace culture in state government that promotes equitable treatment for all, and one that embraces the true value workplace diversity offers.

 

Paid Family Leave Study Committee

VCW’s Executive Director Cary Brown served on the Paid Family Leave Study Committee created by Act 31 (Equal Pay law - more on Act 31 below) last year. Read the Committee’s report here.

 

Vermont Council on Domestic Violence

VCW is a member of the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence. The Council is a statewide multidisciplinary group created by Vermont Statute. The Council’s broad representation from state and community stakeholders allows us to provide leadership for Vermont’s statewide effort to eradicate domestic violence. The Council facilitates opportunities for dialogue, advocacy, education and support among state agencies, advocacy groups, and the public.

 

Women's History Month Event Honors Vermont Women in the Field of Law

Women Of Change flyer

2012's Women's History Month event focused on women in the field of law and featured a panel discussion, "Women of Change: Making Strides in Women’s Legal Rights in the 70s and 80s", led by Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna. The expert panel included Sandy Baird, Esquire; Senator Peg Flory; the Honorable Denise Johnson; and Mary Just Skinner, Esquire. The audience learned about how the battle for women’s names to appear in the phonebook was won; what it was like to be one of the first 100 female lawyers in practice; what influenced decisions to run for public office; and what it’s like to serve and represent women, particularly survivors of domestic violence. This event coincided with the release of the VCW’s 6th edition of The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont, a handbook to help the layperson understand legal rights and responsibilities under state and federal law. VCW would like to thank the Action Circles team for capturing this discussion in a video. Vermont Public Radio presented a week-long commentary series in collaboration with the Commission and the Project –  VT Link Here to Women in History 2012

 

Human Trafficking

The Vermont Commission on Women is part of the state's Human Trafficking Taskforce which has worked on several meaningful projects over the last few years, including in 2011, legislation (Title 13, Chapter 60: Human Trafficking), and most recently a Crisis Response Protocol. The document, the Vermont Human Trafficking Crisis Response Protocol, provides instructions and information for anyone in Vermont that may have contact with potential victims of sex or labor trafficking. This would be Vermonters working in law enforcement, medicine, social services, education and clergy, but also neighbors, friends and concerned citizens. Find the Vermont Human Trafficking Crisis Response Protocol here.

 

CTS logo

Change the Story Vermont

Working in coalition with powerful partners Vermont Women’s Fund and Vermont Works for Women, we launched Change the Story Vermont, a multi-year initiative engaging business, government and education to improve women’s economic well-being and ensure Vermont’s economic future. Check it out on the web and Facebook too.

 

Harassment in Schools

The Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity produces this helpful guide: "What Should Happen When Your Child Reports Harassment"

 

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Guide for Employees and Employers

Sexual harassment cover
This 20-page booklet provides general information, including a definition of sexual harassment, descriptions of state and federal laws, policies for Vermont businesses, and steps employees can take if harassed.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (PDF file, 674 KB)

 

Paid Sick Days

The Vermont Commission on Women is a member of the Paid Sick Days Coalition. More information on the campaign for Earned Sick Days in Vermont can be found here. Follow the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter @VTPaidTime for more updates.

 

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Learn about (and plan) conferences, meetings and workshops for women and girls by using our event calendar tool:
Button for new statewide event calendar
Easy to use, easy to add events to, and super mobile-friendly, this new calendar feature is an extension of VCW’s efforts to facilitate collaboration between Vermont organizations doing work with women and girls, and to increase public awareness and participation of these activities.

 

Resource Directory

Looking for help? Try our Resource Directory with over 200 pages of organizations/agencies to assist you.