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New Law in Maine Provides Paid Time Off for Any Purpose

On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed a progressive bill that will allow employees in Maine to accrue paid leave that can be used for any purpose. According to Governor Mills, the law will cover approximately 85% of Maine’s workforce. Eligible employees will begin accruing leave under the law on January 1, 2021.

The legislation, S.P. 110, L.D. 369, titled “An Act Authorizing Earned Employee Leave,” establishes the first statewide “no-strings-attached” paid leave mandate.

Private Employers With 10 or More Employees Must Provide Paid Leave

The paid leave law applies to Maine businesses that employ at least 10 employees for more than 120 days in the calendar year.

Eligible employees will accrue 1 hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, capped at an annual maximum of 40 hours of paid leave. Paid leave must be provided at the employee’s base rate of pay. An employee using accrued paid leave provided by the law is entitled to the same leave-related benefits “as those provided under established policies of the employer pertaining to other types of paid leave.” 

Maine’s Unionized Employees May Be Temporarily Out of Luck Under the Act

There are no length of service, number of hours worked, or other eligibility requirements for employees to earn paid leave. This means that temporary workers and part-time employees must accrue paid leave in accordance with the law. Eligible employees hired on or after January 1, 2021 will start accruing leave immediately upon hire.

However, there are two noteworthy restrictions imposed by the law. First, it allows employers to require that employees wait up to 120 days after beginning employment before they can use the paid leave they have accrued. As a result, employees who are engaged on a short-term basis or switch jobs frequently may not have the opportunity to use accrued paid leave.

Second, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect on January 1, 2021, are not entitled to paid leave under the law until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. As a practical matter, this could mean that unionized workers do not receive the paid leave benefits required by the law until years after the non-represented employees of the same employer.

Notice Requirements Under the Act

Paid leave can be used for any purpose, without restriction. However, the law requires employees to provide “reasonable” advance notice of their intent to use paid leave, unless an emergency, illness, or other sudden necessity precludes prior notice.

An employee scheduling paid leave is required to work with the employer to schedule leave in a manner that prevents undue hardship on the employer. “Undue hardship” is not defined under the law, but typical considerations would include the size of the employer’s business, the number of employees, the nature of the business, the role of the employee requesting leave, and the availability of coverage in light of the length and timing of the requested leave.

Consequences for Failing to Comply With the Act Include Civil Penalties

Employers who violate the law will be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. Therefore, employers in Maine should review their established leave policies and paid time off systems ahead of the law’s effective date. Although paid leave accrual under the law will not begin for approximately 18 months, employers should consider modifying policies in advance and addressing the issue in any negotiations with unions or other employee organizations set to occur in 2019 or 2020.

Municipalities Prohibited From Passing Local Paid Leave Ordinances

On a very final note, the law as revised by an amendment offered by Governor Mills herself prohibits municipalities in Maine from instituting paid leave regulations. As a result, Maine workers should not expect to become the beneficiaries of any additional paid leave measures at the local level, such as the sick leave proposal that was voted down by the Portland City Council earlier this month.

 

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.

James Venable

James Venable

James Venable, JD, SPHR, is the Vice President of Employment Law, Absence and Accommodation Compliance at ReedGroup, where he provides expertise in the areas of Absence Management Compliance and Employee Relations Counseling. Mr. Venable has more than 20 years of experience across senior roles in Legal, Human Resources, and Compliance from several Fortune 500 companies.

Mr. Venable joined ReedGroup in April 2018 after serving as Vice President of Human Resources, Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety for Comcast, where he was responsible for engagement and labor relations activities for the company’s West Division Business Unit.

He received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Connecticut School of Law, his BA’s in Political Science and English from the University of New Hampshire, and is licensed to practice law in Massachusetts.

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