AN ACT RELATING TO UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION FOR SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 21 V.S.A. chapter 16A is added to read:
Chapter 16a. Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors’ Transitional Employment Program
§ 1251. PURPOSE
The purpose of the domestic and sexual violence survivors’ transitional employment program is to provide temporary, partial wage replacement to individuals who must leave employment, without good cause attributable to the employer, because of circumstances directly resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
§ 1252. DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of this chapter:
(1) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of employment and training or the commissioner’s designee.
(2) “Department” means the department of employment and training.
(3) “Domestic and sexual violence” means domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking as defined in 15 V.S.A. § 1151.
(4) “Weekly payment” means an amount determined in accordance with section 1338 of this title.
§ 1253. ELIGIBILITY
The commissioner shall make all determinations for eligibility under this chapter. An individual shall be eligible for up to 26 weekly payments when the commissioner determines that the individual voluntarily left work due to circumstances directly resulting from domestic and sexual violence, provided the individual:
(1) Leaves employment for one of the following reasons:
(A) The individual reasonably fears that the domestic and sexual violence will continue at or en route to or from the place of employment.
(B) The individual intends to relocate in order to avoid future domestic and sexual violence of the individual or a member of the individual’s family.
(C) The individual reasonably believes that leaving the employment is necessary for the safety of the individual or a member of the individual’s family.
(2) Complies with all the following:
(A) Prior to leaving employment has pursued reasonable alternatives to leaving the employment, which may include seeking a protection order, relocating to a secure place, or seeking reasonable accommodation from the employer, such as a transfer or different assignment. Failure to pursue reasonable alternatives may be excused if the individual establishes that pursuit of alternatives is likely to:
(i) Be futile.
(ii) Increase the risk of future incidents of domestic and sexual violence.
(iii) Not adequately address the specific circumstances that led to the individual’s decision to separate from employment.
(B) Provides the department with satisfactory documentation of the domestic and sexual violence. The documentation may include a sworn statement from the individual attesting to the abuse, law enforcement or court records, or other documentation from an attorney or legal advisor, member of the clergy, or health care provider, as defined in 18 V.S.A. § 9432(8). Information relating to the domestic and sexual violence, including the claimant’s statement and corroborating evidence, provided to the department shall not be disclosed by the department unless the claimant has signed a consent to disclose form. In the event the department is legally required to release this information without consent by the claimant, the department shall notify the claimant at the time the notice or request for release of information is received by the department and prior to releasing the requested information.
(C) Has been found ineligible for unemployment solely on the basis of the separation from employment.
§ 1254. CONDITIONS
An individual shall be eligible to receive payments with respect to any week, only if the commissioner finds that the individual complies with all of the following requirements:
(1) Files a claim certifying that he or she did not work during the week.
(2) Is not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.
(3) Is taking steps to become employed.
§ 1255. PROCEDURES
(a) The commissioner shall review all claims for payment and shall promptly provide written notification to the individual of any claim that is denied and the reasons for the denial.
(b) Within 30 days after receipt of a denial, the individual may appeal the determination to the commissioner. The commissioner shall review the record within seven working days after the notice of the appeal is filed and promptly notify the individual in writing of the commissioner’s decision. The decision of the commissioner shall become final unless an appeal to the supreme court is taken within 30 days of the date of the commissioner’s decision.
Sec. 2. DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE TRAINING;
DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING
The Department of Employment and Training in cooperation with the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence shall design and implement a training program no later than 120 days after the effective date of this act. The training shall be provided to appropriate department employees who interact with claimants under chapter 16A of Title 21 and shall include all the following:
(1) The nature and dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
(2) Other resources and support services available for the survivors.
Sec. 3. REPORT; DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING
The Department of Employment and Training shall issue a written report to the General Assembly on or before January 1, 2007. The department shall report on the following:
(1) The details of implementation of chapter 16A of Title 21 and the number of claims filed, approved, denied, and appealed pursuant to that chapter.
(2) The amount of money paid from the Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors’ Transition Fund established pursuant to 21 V.S.A. § 1253, and the balance in the fund as of December 1, 2006.
(3) Any other relevant information relating to the effectiveness and functioning of chapter 16A of Title 21, and any recommendations for improving the program.
Sec. 4. APPROPRIATION; FUNDING SOURCES; FUTURE FUNDING
(a) There is appropriated from the Crime Victims Restitution Fund in FY 2006, the amount of $30,000.00 to the Department of Employment and Training to pay for claims approved pursuant to chapter 16A of Title 21. Any amounts unexpended by the department at the end of this fiscal year shall be carried forward until fully expended. In addition to this appropriation, the Department of Employment and Training may accept donations and gifts in accordance with 32 V.S.A. § 5 to pay claims approved pursuant to chapter 16A of Title 21.
(b) No funds from the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund shall be used to pay claims under chapter 16A of Title 21.
(c) In fiscal year 2007, an appropriation for the Domestic and Sexual Violence Survivors’ Transitional Program shall be included in the state budget recommended by the governor.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street