Many people in our community are unaware that, effective July 1, 2013, employers can now force employees to sign — as a condition of employment — a document waiving their rights to earned vacation pay upon voluntary or disciplinary separation. Said another way, when an employee leaves his or her job, the employer can now withhold any earned vacation pay the employee would otherwise be entitled to — as long as the employer informed the employee of this in writing.
This is legal under House Bill 0079, which passed in both houses of the legislature earlier this spring. The bill amends the state’s definition of wages so that wages “...means compensation, including fringe benefits...but does not include the value of vacation leave accrued at the date of termination....”
The bill’s sponsor — Republican Rep. Tim Stubson (Casper) — says that the intent of the bill is “misunderstood,” adding that he “think[s] the bill is pro-employee” (Wyoming Business Report, January 25, 2013).
More like pro-employer! How is it pro-employee to throw the working class of Wyoming under the bus like that? To deny employees the pay that they have earned? Most people depend on all accrued fringe benefits like vacation and sick pay to help the transition of quitting one job and moving to another. Or, in the unfortunate circumstances of disciplinary termination, vacation pay might help put food on the table and pay the bills for one more week. No, this bill is not pro-employee. What this bill does is create an unintended “chilling” effect that can freeze employees into forced, conscripted labor.
In Uinta County, elected Republican congressmen Paul Barnard, Allen Jaggi and Garry Piiparinen voted in favor of this legislation. Republican Gov. Matt Mead signed this bill into law.
It should be noted that 100 percent of Democrats in both the Senate and House of Representatives voted against House Bill 0079. In fact, although unsuccessful, the Wyoming Democratic Party even launched a petition initiative to counter the legislation, but was unable to gain the required number of signatures in time.
Still, the effort was there by Democrats to support the people and stand up for what is right. It’s pretty clear that the left side of the aisle has the best interests of Wyoming workers in mind, while the right side of the aisle is loyal only to corporate interests.