Women & the Economy

Pay Equity and Gender in Vermont

- Understand the Law: Vermont’s Equal Pay Act
Adopted in 2002, Vermont’s Equal Pay Act pertains to any employer, employment agency, labor organization or any person seeking Vermont employees. The Act makes it illegal for the former to pay wages to employees of one sex at a rate less than the rate paid to employees of the other sex in cases where equal work is being done. Equal work entails equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. 

- Employees
Employees can be paid different wages when the difference is a result of when the difference is a result of seniority or merit system, a system in which earnings are based on quantity or quality of production, and any other non-discriminatory factor other than sex.  Employees are also protected from discipline, discharge, or any retaliatory act for disclosing their own wage.

If you suspect you are a victim of pay discrimination, there are a number of things you can do. Write down what happened, for example, were you offered a lower starting salary, or did you discover that you are being paid less than a co-worker?  Find out how others have been treated at your workplace, talk to your employer and decide whether to file a charge. The Vermont Attorney General has the authority to investigate complaints of wage discrimination and to seek civil penalties and damages from employers who violate the equal pay law.  Damages are usually double the individual’s unpaid wages. It is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against you for filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

Contact information:  Attorney General’s Civil Rights Intake Unit (888) 746-9195 (toll free Vermont only) or (802) 828-3657. 
The office is located in the Pavilion Building, 109 State Street, Montpelier VT 05609.

- Employers
The Equal Pay Act means that Vermont employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Employers must pay equal wages to all employees who are performing equal work. An employer may pay different wages rates when the difference is a result of a seniority or merit system, a system in which earnings are based on quantity or quality of production, or any non-discriminatory factor other than sex. Employers cannot remedy pay inequities by reducing the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with the equal pay law, nor can they retaliate against employees who file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office. As of July 1, 2005 and employer may not require as a condition of employment that employees not disclose their wages, require employees to sign a waiver or other document releasing their right to disclose or discuss their wages, nor discipline, discharge or discriminate against employees who disclose or discuss their wages.

- Employers and Employees
Use the Equal Pay Audit to protect your workplace against pay equity violations.

  1. Job Descriptions:  Are there clear and concise job descriptions with performance standards?  Job descriptions should encompass these areas: skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.  Remember that job titles are not as important as job content when it comes to determining whether the jobs are equal.

  2. Compensation:  Evaluate the compensation system.  For example, what is the relationship between wage rates and the job description? Is there a performance rating system, with measurable criteria, that differentiates between levels of performance?

  3. Evaluation: Is there an employee evaluation system based on stated goals and performance standards?  How is it applied and is everyone included?

  4. Awards:  Is there an awards, benefits, and merit system?  How is it based on stated principles?  How is it applied, how often, and who is eligible?

  5. Training: Are managers/supervisors trained in assessment of work performance and company policy on wages?

  6. Opportunities:  Are there opportunities for advancement and professional development?  How are employees selected for training, development, and promotion opportunities?  Are merit raises or bonuses based on objective criteria?  Are all employees given equal opportunity to earn merit raises or bonuses

(Montpelier) - The Vermont Commission on Women, the Civil Rights Unit of the Vermont Attorney General, Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign are working together to inform Vermont workers and employers about wage discrimination.

A revised, updated pamphlet Equal Pay: Your Rights and Obligations as a Vermont Employee or Employer outlines Vermont’s equal pay laws and includes the new law signed by Governor Douglas on April 28, 2005 giving all Vermont workers the right to disclose wages without fear of retaliation. This new law enables workers to discover if they are being paid equitably, prohibits wage nondisclosure agreements, and protects employees from discharge, discipline or discrimination when disclosing their wages.


In addition to outlining the new law, the Equal Pay pamphlet helps employers understand the legal definition of equal work and situations where employees can be paid different wages. Employees learn what rights they have as workers, and what to do when they suspect pay discrimination. A specialized tool, the “Equal Pay Audit,” that can be used to protect every workplace against pay equity violations is also part of the pamphlet.


Formatted for easy downloading and reproduction, the pamphlet is available on the following websites:
- www.atg.state.vt.us (VT Office of the Attorney General, Civil Rights Unit)
- www.women.state.vt.us (VT Commission on Women)
- www.vtchamber.com (VT Chamber of Commerce) or by calling the Commission on Women at 800-881-1561 or the Office of the Attorney General, Civil Rights Unit at 888-745-9195.


Speakers are available to address this issue; call the Commission on Women at 800-881-1561 for more information.




Background and Talking Points

Vermont Women and the Livable Wage (Vermont Job Gap Study, Phase 8)

Pay Equity and Gender in Vermont

Get Involved: What's Happening in Vermont Now

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