Her political career is little more than a year old, but State Rep. Ashley Bartley (R-Fairfax) has already established herself as a force to be reckoned with. For starters, there’s the fact that she launched her bid for office while giving birth.
It was, I think, eight hours into birth, that I turned to my husband and asked how he would feel if I ran for the Vermont House of Representatives. His response, which pains me to say was the correct one; “let’s get through the next 72 hours before we talk.”
Said husband is Jeff Bartley, former executive director of the Vermont Republican Party, now a member of the band of exiles alienated by the VTGOP’s hard right turn. He probably thought he’d heard it all until that moment.
Anyway, they did have the talk and she ran for office.
And, skipping ahead to the end, shortly after taking office in January, she lost her job for the apparent crime of Being a Legislator.
Bartley told her story Wednesday afternoon to the Senate Government Operations Committee. (Written testimony here, YouTube video here, Bartley’s testimony starts at the 46:40 mark.) The panel is considering S.39, a bill to raise lawmakers’ pay, entitle them to health insurance coverage, and — among other things — give them legal protection against the professional retaliation that befell her.
Her account, it must be said, is but one side of the story. We haven’t heard from her former employer — whom she didn’t name publicly, but her LinkedIn profile indicates that for three and a half years ending in January, she was director of human resources and operations for the Neville Companies, a South Burlington real estate management firm.
Back to the beginning. In March 2022, Bartley returned to work after a six-week maternity leave — during which she continued to work remotely and started planning her campaign. She told her boss, the owner of the company, that she was running for House.
He couldn’t have been more supportive. In fact, early on he offered to donate to my campaign, asked to make sure he was on our digital and snail-mail lists, and every time he was in the office, he asked how the campaign was going.
Without this “overwhelming support,” Bartley said, she would not have continued her campaign. Her boss agreed that, if she won her race, she could work remotely Tuesdays through Fridays during the session and work in the office Mondays, when the Legislature doesn’t meet. He even said her performance during maternity leave was proof she could do her job remotely.
Key point: Because the two parties were in such complete agreement, Bartley didn’t bother to give formal written notice of leave. Put a pin in that.
After she won, her employer pulled a switcheroo. He claimed he hadn’t understood her need to be in Montpelier four days a week.
Things turned hostile after Bartley took office in January. Her boss sent her insulting, sexist emails questioning her dedication to the job and her (already proven) ability to work remotely. He suggested moving her from a salaried position to an hourly one, which is a hell of a thing to do to an employee who’d done a good job for three-plus years and kept up her obligations during maternity leave.
When it became clear there was no basis to continue, Bartley requested a severance package. The response? The company didn’t do that.
She knew that was a lie because, as HR director, she had executed severance agreements for several other people leaving the firm.
The last communication she received from her boss was a brusque email: “You have rejected that offer, and in doing so you have resigned from employment with ‘The company’ effective immediately.”
Remember, that’s the Neville Companies of South Burlington. Do business with them as you wish.
Remember that pin? Because she hadn’t filed written notice of leave, Bartley had no protection under the current state law. Hence, her co-sponsorship of S.39, which mandates that lawmakers “shall be entitled to a temporary or partial leave of absence” in order to hold office.
Bartley testified that in the last two bienniums, at least six lawmakers have resigned because of work/service conflicts. “This is unacceptable if we are to provide a voice for working families, young families, and those without means to serve in Montpelier,” she said. And she’s right.
It takes guts to speak out publicly about a former employer. She might very well find it difficult to get another job, especially in the real estate field. This strikes a chord with me because I’ve been in a situation where an employer suddenly did an about-face and left me feeling like I couldn’t trust him. Because I couldn’t. My employment ended a few weeks later.
That was many years ago, and I’ve done just fine. I hope the same will be said for Ashley Bartley and her family. She didn’t deserve what she got, and she’s standing up for herself and all her working colleagues.
Did you husband help you write this article about yourself? Who calls themselves a badass. What a joke to the Republican Party. Huge let down.
You are grossly misinformed. I, John Walters, write every post on this site and I do it independently. The views are my own, thanks.
“She might very well find it difficult to get another job, especially in the real estate field.”
Perhaps one good thing that has, or might, come out of this bill is the realization that stuff like this happens every day across Vt and that we have no recourse against it. Her losing her health insurance should be a wake up call, though I doubt it.
Meanwhile, Bartley voted along Republican party lines, against the Paid Family Leave bill, as it passed out of the House General committee 9-3; citing some feeble complaints about how it’s underfunded (ha) and they didn’t hear enough from the business community (heaven forbid). I guess what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander. It’s making it harder for me to muster a lot of sympathy for her.