Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Vermont?

January 4th 2024

In the Green Mountain State, Vermont, hourly employees are safeguarded by a set of employment laws that ensure fair treatment, proper compensation, and a safe, respectful working environment. These laws establish the fundamental rights and protections that every hourly worker is entitled to, and they are essential for ensuring equitable workplace standards.

The regulations set by the state cover various aspects of employment, including wage standards, mandatory breaks, overtime pay, job safety, and protection against workplace discrimination. Each of these regulations is designed to provide hourly employees with the necessary protections and assurances against possible exploitation or mistreatment by employers.

For every hourly employee in Vermont (or in any state), being informed about these rights is not just a matter of legal compliance but also a crucial step to ensure that they receive what is rightfully theirs. With this vital knowledge, workers can better advocate for themselves, seek justice, communicate concerns, and ensure they are treated in accordance with state laws.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Vermont
Wage and Hour Regulations in Vermont
Rest Laws in Vermont
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Vermont
Termination of Employment in Vermont

Defining an Hourly Employee in Vermont

What is Hourly Employment in Vermont?

In Vermont, hourly employment refers to a work arrangement where employees are compensated based on the number of hours they work rather than a fixed salary or other compensation methods. It’s a common form of payment, especially for positions in retail, hospitality, manual labor, and other sectors where work hours might vary from week to week.

Hourly employees in Vermont are subject to the state’s minimum wage laws. Vermont’s minimum wage is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index, ensuring that the compensation keeps pace with inflation. This means that employers are required by law to pay hourly workers at least the state-mandated minimum wage for every hour worked.

In addition to their regular hourly wages, Vermont laws stipulate that hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime pay is calculated at one and a half times the employee’s regular hourly rate, ensuring that workers are fairly compensated for extended work hours. Furthermore, hourly employees in Vermont are also granted certain break rights. Depending on the duration of their work shift, they are entitled to specific meal and rest breaks, which are meant to ensure their well-being during work hours.

Lastly, Vermont’s employment laws provide protections against workplace discrimination and harassment. This means hourly workers are entitled to work in an environment free from discriminatory practices based on race, gender, religion, and other protected categories.

What are the Key Differences Between Hourly and Salaried Employees in Vermont?

Here’s a table outlining the key differences between hourly and salaried employees in Vermont based on the standards prevalent as of October 2023:

Key Differences Hourly Employee Salaried Employee
Payment Structure Paid based on the number of hours worked. Receive a predetermined amount regardless of hours worked.
Minimum Wage Subject to Vermont’s minimum wage laws. Not necessarily subject to minimum wage laws if they meet exemption criteria.
Overtime Pay Eligible for overtime pay (typically 1.5 times hourly rate) after 40 hours in a workweek. May not be eligible for overtime, depending on job duties and exemptions.
Breaks and Rest Periods Entitled to specific meal and rest breaks depending on the length of the shift. Breaks and rest periods are typically at the employer’s discretion.
Job Duties and Exemptions Job duties often include manual labor, clerical tasks, or customer service. Often in managerial, professional, or administrative roles with specific FLSA exemptions.
Benefits and Perks Benefits may vary and are not always guaranteed. Often have set benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans.
Consistency of Work Hours Work hours may vary weekly. Typically, work a consistent number of hours, though may exceed the standard workweek.

To learn more about Vermont labor laws, you can access our guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in Vermont and discover how to run payroll in Vermont.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Vermont

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Vermont?

Vermont’s labor laws, like those of many states, are influenced by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). As it pertains to the maximum weekly working hours, there isn’t a fixed cap on the number of hours an adult can work in a week in Vermont. Essentially, employers can schedule adult hourly employees to work an unlimited number of hours in a week without providing a day off as long as they comply with other requirements, such as overtime pay.

That being said, in the Green Mountain State, when hourly employees exceed 40 hours of work within a single workweek, employers are required to pay them overtime. This overtime rate is set at one and a half times the employee’s regular hourly wage. It’s important to note that certain categories of employees, like administrative, executive, and professional workers, might be exempt from these overtime provisions depending on their specific job duties and salary levels.

For minors, Vermont’s labor laws are more restrictive. Employers must adhere to regulations related to the number of hours and days that minors can work, especially during school days.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Vermont?

Ensuring fair compensation for workers is fundamental to Vermont’s labor policies. In line with this, the state has delineated clear and responsive standards for the minimum wage, aiming to guarantee that hourly employees receive just and equitable compensation for their labor.

The current minimum wage for hourly workers in Vermont, a pivotal workforce segment, is set at $13.67 per hour. This rate is not merely arbitrary; Vermont adjusts its minimum wage based on certain economic indicators to ensure its relevance. Historically, the state has made annual adjustments to the minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), ensuring it accurately reflects inflation and other vital economic dynamics that influence the cost of living.

This proactive methodology ensures that the minimum wage remains responsive to economic shifts, allowing hourly workers to maintain their purchasing power in the face of inflationary pressures. By setting the rate at $13.67, Vermont showcases its commitment to protecting workers’ interests and ensuring their earnings align with prevailing living costs.

All employers within Vermont are obligated to adhere to this wage standard. Any deviation or underpayment can lead to penalties, legal consequences, and potential reputational damage. Note that while this is the standard rate, certain categories of workers, like those who earn tips, may have distinct wage structures. Yet, the overarching principle remains the same: the total earnings of any employee should, at a minimum, meet or exceed the state-mandated wage rate.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Vermont?

In Vermont, the framework for overtime is structured to ensure that employees are justly compensated for extended work hours beyond the standard workweek. This framework is primarily influenced by federal guidelines, specifically the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), but may also have specific nuances based on state regulations and local considerations.

In Vermont, any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a single workweek qualify as overtime for non-exempt employees. This means that if an hourly worker puts in more than 40 hours within a week, any hours beyond the initial 40 are to be compensated at an overtime rate.

The associated pay for overtime hours is set at one and a half times the employee’s regular hourly wage. To illustrate, if an employee typically earns $13.67 per hour, their overtime rate would be $20.51 per hour for each hour worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.

It’s essential to be aware that not all employees are eligible for overtime pay. There are specific exemptions based on job roles, duties, and salary levels. For instance, certain administrative, executive, and professional positions might not be entitled to overtime pay, even if they work more than 40 hours in a week, as they fall under the FLSA’s exemption criteria.

Rest Laws in Vermont

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in Vermont?

Vermont is keenly attuned to the well-being of its overall workforce, and this concern extends to the provision of meal and rest breaks for hourly employees. These breaks are essential as they allow workers to recuperate, ensuring both safety and efficiency in the workplace.

In Vermont, employers are required to provide reasonable opportunities for employees to eat and rest. Specifically, for every four consecutive hours worked (or more),  employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal break. This break is typically unpaid unless the employee is required to remain on duty or on the employer’s premises. In such cases where the employee is not completely free from work responsibilities during the break, they must be compensated.

As for rest breaks, Vermont’s labor laws do not explicitly mandate specific durations for shorter, more frequent rest breaks throughout the day. However, based on traditional work norms, it’s common practice in many industries in the state to offer a 10 to 15-minute break for every 4 hours of work, though this isn’t a state-wide legal requirement or a firmly codified rule.

It’s also worth noting that specific provisions might apply to certain industries or job roles, especially those that involve safety-sensitive tasks. Employers in such sectors are often encouraged or even mandated to provide more frequent or longer breaks to the employees.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Vermont?

Ensuring the well-being of employees through structured time off and leave provisions is essential for any state, and Vermont is no exception. Various laws govern these aspects, and for hourly employees in Vermont, it’s crucial to understand these state-mandated provisions. 

Below are some of the primary laws related to time off and leaves for such employees:

  • Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act (VPFLA): The VPFLA entitles eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a family member. During this leave, employers are required to continue the employee’s health insurance benefits. Upon returning from leave, employees should be reinstated to their previous position or a similar role.
  • Vermont Paid Sick Leave Law: Starting from January 1, 2017, the Vermont Paid Sick Leave Act mandates employers to provide eligible employees with a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 52 hours worked. The leave can be utilized for personal illnesses, caring for a sick family member, or addressing issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Employees can accumulate and use up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year.
  • Short-Term and Long-Term Disability: While not a state-specific program, many employers (both hourly and salaried) in Vermont offer short-term or long-term disability benefits. Typically, these benefits provide a portion of the employee’s salary for a designated duration when the employee cannot work due to non-work-related injuries or illnesses.
  • Jury Duty and Witness Leave: Vermont’s laws protect employees summoned for jury duty or as trial witnesses. Under this consideration, hourly employees cannot be penalized by their employers for attending to these civic responsibilities. The leave for these duties is generally unpaid, though some employers might offer paid leave as part of their company policies.
  • Vermont Military Leave: Employees serving in the state or federal military are entitled to take unpaid leaves. Once they complete their military service, they have the right to be reinstated to their former positions or equivalent roles, provided they meet specific conditions.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Vermont

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Vermont?

Understanding pay deduction regulations is crucial for both employers and employees to ensure proper compensation practices and maintain workplace transparency. In Vermont, specific laws and guidelines dictate permissible deductions from the wages of hourly employees, safeguarding their earnings. Below are the primary laws related to pay deductions for such employees:

  • Vermont Wage and Hour Law: Serving as Vermont’s primary legislation governing wage practices, the Vermont Wage and Hour Law dictates that employers can only make deductions from an hourly employee’s wages when it’s required or permitted by law or when the employer has obtained explicit written authorization from the employee for a lawful purpose.
  • Deductions for Overpayment: If an employer overpays an hourly employee due to a mathematical or clerical error, the employer can recover the overpayment. However, before doing so, the employer must provide the hourly employee with a written notice and can only deduct a specific amount from subsequent paychecks to recover the overpayment.
  • Deductions for Damages or Loss: In Vermont, employers cannot readily deduct amounts from an employee’s wages for breakage, damage, or loss of company property unless the employee has given written consent for the deduction, ensuring their rights are protected.
  • Uniform and Equipment Deductions: Deductions for uniforms, tools, or equipment required for the job are not permissible unless the employee provides written consent, and even then, such a deduction should not reduce the employee’s wages below the required minimum.
  • Deductions for Benefits: In Vermont, employers can deduct amounts from an hourly employee’s wages for benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, or other similar benefits, but only if the employee has provided clear written authorization for these deductions.
  • Loans, Advances, and Goods/Services: If an employer provides an advance or loan to an employee or if the employee purchases goods or services from the employer, deductions can be made from the employee’s wages for repayment. However, for the sake of transparency, such deductions require written authorization from the employee to ensure mutual understanding.

What are the Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Vermont State Law?

The rights and entitlements of hourly employees in Vermont are protected by various state laws, ensuring that workers receive proper compensation and are treated fairly in their workplace. Here’s a detailed look into the key entitlements of hourly employees in Vermont.

  • Minimum Wage: Vermont has a state minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. The rate has been subject to adjustments over the years. Some exceptions exist, such as for employees in necessary training or student workers, especially during seasonal periods, but most hourly employees are entitled to the state’s minimum wage of $13.67.
  • Overtime Pay: Hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. The overtime rate is at least 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for every hour worked during such extended periods beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.
  • Meal Breaks: Employees are entitled to an opportunity to eat and use the restroom during a shift of at least 4 hours. This break is usually 30 minutes long. The break should be given at a reasonably opportune moment, generally around the midpoint of the shift. If the nature of the job provides frequent opportunities to take short breaks, the formal meal break can be waived.
  • Paid Sick Leave: Employers with more than five hourly employees who work for an average of 30 or more hours per week are required to provide paid sick leave. Employees earn one hour of paid sick time for every 52 hours worked. Importantly, they can use this earned sick time for their own severe illness or to care for a sick family member, among other related reasons.
  • Child Labor: Vermont has specific rules regarding the employment of minors. These rules outline the permissible hours of work, the type of jobs they can do, and the necessary work permits. For instance, during school weeks, 16- and 17-year-olds cannot work more than 6 days in a row, more than 30 hours in a week, or before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m. on a school night.
  • Termination: Vermont is an “at-will” employment state, meaning either the employer or employee can terminate the professional relationship at any time, for any reason, unless a contract specifies otherwise or the reason for termination is illegal (e.g., discrimination).
  • Final Paycheck: If an employee quits or is terminated, the employer must provide the final paycheck on the last day of employment or mail it to the employee’s last known address.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Vermont State Law?

  • Anti-discrimination and Harassment: Vermont law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or physical or mental condition. This means hourly employees cannot be paid less or treated unfairly due to these protected categories. Employers are also obligated to provide a workplace free from harassment and are required to take action if such behavior occurs.
  • Retaliation Protections: In the progressive state of Vermont, workers, including hourly employees, are protected against retaliation from employers. This means if an employee exercises their rights, such as filing a complaint about workplace conditions or voicing safety concerns, the employer cannot take adverse employment action against them in retaliation.
  • Safe Working Environment: Employers in Vermont are obligated to provide a safe working environment, which includes diligently adhering to safety standards and regulations. Hourly employees have the right to report unsafe conditions without fear of retaliation.
  • Breaks and Meal Periods: Hourly employees in Vermont working shifts of 4 hours or more are entitled to reasonable breaks for meals. On the other hand, if the work conditions allow for regular, intermittent breaks, then the employer might not need to provide a formal meal break.
  • Child Labor Protections: For the protection of minors, Vermont has specific laws concerning the employment of individuals under the age of 18. These laws cover permissible work hours, job types, and the need for work permits to ensure that younger workers aren’t exploited.
  • Right to Access Personnel Files: Vermont employees, including hourly workers, have the right to inspect and make copies of their personnel records. This provision allows employees to thoroughly review and ensure accuracy in their comprehensive employment records.
  • Protection Against Unlawful Deductions: Employers in Vermont cannot make unauthorized deductions from an employee’s wages. This policy ensures that hourly employees consistently receive the full pay they are entitled to, without unexpected or illegal deductions.

Termination of Employment in Vermont

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Vermont?

  • At-Will Employment: Vermont adheres to the “at-will” employment principle. This means, barring any contractual obligations or collective bargaining agreements, both the employer and the employee retain the right to terminate the employment relationship at any given time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. However, this termination must not be for an illegal reason.
  • Final Paycheck: In Vermont, when an hourly employee’s relationship with their employer ends, the employer is legally required to provide the terminated employee with the final paycheck by the next scheduled payday. If there’s an established agreement or company policy regarding accrued benefits, such as unused vacation days, those must also be paid out.
  • Discrimination and Retaliation Prohibitions: Employers are strictly prohibited from terminating hourly employees based on discriminatory reasons. These protections include race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, place of birth, and age. Furthermore, it’s against the law to terminate an employee in retaliation for engaging in certain activities. For instance, if an hourly employee files a complaint against the employer for workplace safety violations, the employer cannot legally terminate the employee in response.
  • Whistleblower Protections: Hourly employees in Vermont are safeguarded against termination if they disclose or threaten to disclose certain policies or practices that are in violation of the law. Additionally, if they provide information or testify in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry regarding such violations, their rights are protected. This ensures that workers can report unlawful activities without the fear of facing repercussions or losing the job.
  • Employee Leave Protections: Certain leaves of absence are protected under Vermont law, and an employee cannot be terminated for taking these leaves. For instance, employees are protected when taking family or medical leave, parental leave, or short-term family leave. Employers cannot terminate an hourly employee for using these legally protected leaves.
  • Notice of Mass Layoffs or Plant Closings: While Vermont doesn’t have a state-specific version of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, employers must still adhere to the federal WARN Act. This act requires employers to provide a 60-day notice to employees and local governments if there’s going to be a mass layoff or a plant closing.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Vermont?

In Vermont, as with many other states, severance pay is not mandated by state law for hourly employees. This means employers are not legally required to provide severance pay to hourly employees upon termination of their employment. Here’s a detailed look into the specifics:

  • Employment Contracts and Agreements: While there’s no state requirement, some employers might offer severance pay as part of an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement. If an hourly employee has an employment agreement or if the employer has an established policy that promises severance pay, the employer is obligated to fulfill that promise.
  • Federal Law Consideration: On a federal level, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of qualified plant closings and mass layoffs. While the WARN Act mandates the notice, it does not require severance pay. However, some employers might offer severance pay in lieu of the notice. Note that the WARN Act applies to businesses with 100 or more full-time workers, excluding those who have worked less than six months and those who work at least less than 20 hours a week.
  • Purpose of Severance Pay: Even though it’s not required, some employers still choose to offer severance pay as a gesture of goodwill or to ease the transition for terminated employees. Providing severance can also serve as a deterrent for lawsuits or claims by departing employees, especially when the severance agreement includes a release of claims against the employer.
  • Calculation: In situations where severance pay is offered, especially to provide a financial cushion, the amount or duration is calculated based on the length of the employee’s service. For instance, an employer might offer one week’s pay for every year of dedicated service.

While Vermont does not mandate severance pay for hourly employees, it can still come into play based on employer policies, employment contracts, or as part of negotiation upon termination. As always, especially in complex cases, for specific situations or concerns, consulting the Vermont Department of Labor or a legal professional can provide clarity and guidance.

Final Thoughts

In Vermont, as an hourly employee, you’re protected by a comprehensive set of labor laws. These cover your rights to a fair wage, safe working conditions, and protection against unlawful termination and discrimination. You’re also entitled to certain breaks and are shielded from employer retaliation for exercising your rights. At the end of the day, for the most accurate understanding of your rights, always consult Vermont’s labor regulations or seek legal advice.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you to seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for the use of this guide.